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Dodgers play it cool while recognizing opportunity in front of them

August 12, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, center, congratulates his players following Sunday's 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, center, congratulates his players following… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

It has come to this for the Dodgers: They have put together the major leagues' best 45-game stretch in 36 years and the best in team history since 1953, and all is calm.

Nobody seems too excited. No one seems to be relaxing or taking anything for granted. Smiles abound in  the clubhouse, but no one is seemingly getting ahead of things.

Considering they are on a 37-8 run and have created a stunningly quick 7½-game lead in the National League West, they appear keenly focused on the game at hand.

“There’s a lot of people in here who understand the opportunity that we have,” Clayton Kershaw said. “A lot of guys who have been around and get that you don’t get a lot of chances to be in first place this late and a chance to go to the postseason. And we’re going to try and not take that for granted.”

That opportunity seemed remote June 22 when the Dodgers were 12 games under .500 and 9½ games out. Now they are pillaging teams and threatening to run away with the division, yet show no indication of letting up.

“When you’ve played baseball as long as a lot of us in here have, you know it’s an extremely long season and you know you have to continue to work, continue to try and get better,” Mark Ellis said. “You want to peak at the end of the season. That’s just something we have a goal of doing. We’re playing good baseball right now but we also see the end goal is a ways away.”

Some may be concerned they are peaking now, yet they seem convinced their best baseball lies ahead.

“We can get better,” Ellis said. “We have a lot of room to improve. Matt Kemp is hurt. Hanley Ramirez hasn’t played in about a week. There are a lot of ways we can get better.”

There are only four Dodgers on the 25-man roster who have won a World Series, and they’re all essentially utility players: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Uribe.

Catcher A.J. Ellis said as the season has progressed, Punto and Schumaker, who were not on the team to start last season, have grown more comfortable speaking up and adding direction.

“These guys don’t really want the spotlight, just want to be a part of a World Series-champion team,” A.J. Ellis said. “When you have guys like that keeping the train going, and kind of let the superstar guys in the middle move at their own pace, it makes a good team up and down the lineup.”

One that apparently recognizes rare opportunity and the need for an even-keel approach over the course of 162-game season to reach it.

“It’s baseball, it’s not hard,” Mark Ellis said. “You can be humbled the next day in baseball. You just want to get better and move forward.”

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