A.J. Ellis and Kenley Jansen celebrate after the Dodgers complete a sweep… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)
Baseball is not like other sports. The season takes forever. The games are nearly every day, the season full of ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s beautiful.
Which leads us to the Dodgers, or as we’ve been fond of calling them most of the season, the last-place Dodgers.
Five days ago, the Dodgers were 12 games under .500 and a season-high 9 1/2 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
Those are some pretty gloomy numbers. The distasteful kind. But they were also the numbers of June 21, which in baseball terms means the season was just warming up.
Five games later, all victories, and the Dodgers are 35-42 and six games back. Still unpleasant numbers, but more tolerable ones. Certainly ones that don’t seem quite so imposing when you’re on a five-game winning streak.
“You know what’s nice, is that Arizona lost today,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “We picked up another game and all of a sudden you’re creeping back and don’t feel so far away.
“Sometimes you can put wins together, not get any closer and that can be deflating. But we’ve been able to pick up a couple of games the last couple of days. Obviously, we just need to win games to get back in the race.”
The Dodgers have been fortunate to be in the NL West, which has refused to let them go. Despite their record, they’re only three games back of second place. The Diamondbacks are the only team in the division with a winning record.
If the Dodgers were in the NL Central, despite their five-game winning streak, they’d still be 12½ games back of Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
Baseball has taught hard lessons on how it’s best not to count out teams that are still hovering, even in the final months of the season. Most players understand this, which is why, despite their disappointing play, the Dodgers could rationalize there was still plenty of time to make a move once the injured started reporting back.
It is better, of course, when a team does win and is actually able to see movement in the standings.
“It’s nice to see progress,” said left-hander Clayton Kershaw. “We can look at the scoreboard a little bit, but it’s so early right now. Staying close and keep winning games has to be the mindset.
“But that’s not to say it doesn’t feel good to keep gaining games.”
Clearly, the Dodgers still have much work to do. They dug themselves a fairly formidable hole. Yet for the moment, at least the progress feels tangible.