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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
They can't be this good, can they?

By Mark Saxon


At some point, the Los Angeles Dodgers will come down from the clouds and we'll see where this thing is headed, right?

They're probably not going to play at an .821 pace between now and Sept. 29, as they have for the past 28 games. Nor are they likely to play .417 baseball, as they did for the season's first 72 games.

Those trends are virtually impossible to align, and, over these next 62 games, the Dodgers will give us a good indication about which stretch was more telling. You'd be foolish to bet against the optimistic scenario right now.

Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez
Mark Ellis, center, belted a two-run homer in the 10th to send the Dodgers on their way to another win, the team's 10th in a row on the road.
They've reached the 100-game mark feeling about as good as a team can feel about itself, especially after coming off a perfect road trip capped by Wednesday's 8-3 win in 10 innings over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

The Dodgers have won all six games since the All-Star break, all on the road in what were supposed to be challenging settings. They've won 23 of their past 28. Their 10 straight wins on the road are a record for an L.A. Dodgers team.

They seem to think they can win no matter what the circumstances, which is exactly what they're doing. They overcame a five-run deficit in the seventh inning to win Tuesday. They overcame a 3-2 deficit in the ninth to win Wednesday.

So many Dodgers players are seeing the ball well and hitting it with the barrel of their bats. That's what makes for this kind of streak, a domino effect of players in a groove. Andre Ethier went 4-for-6 Wednesday with some big hits. Yasiel Puig snapped his homerless drought and had three hits.

Mark Ellis has been quietly doing as much as anybody. He had the two-run home run that got the Dodgers' rollicking 10th-inning rally going.

The Dodgers have scored 41 runs in their past four games, and that kind of production can obscure a lot of frailties. The fielding isn't particularly good. In fact, that's sugar-coating it. Hanley Ramirez is looking shaky at shortstop again and the Dodgers committed three errors Wednesday.

The back end of the pitching rotation -- at times, a group that includes Hyun-Jin Ryu -- has been suspect. Ricky Nolasco got the Dodgers into the sixth inning, but it was a slow grind at times. He gave up four walks, so -- even though Toronto was hitless through four -- it amounted to little after Brett Lawrie's two-run double in the fifth tied the score.

Because of those questions, the Dodgers seem to be hot rather than dominant, but this team also seems more than good enough to win baseball's weakest division. That, of course, is assuming the team is more like its current incarnation than its previous one. If it can stay relatively healthy, it probably is, but by how much?

Dodgers fans should show up in big numbers this weekend to welcome home their team that suddenly is the toast of baseball. After a while on this homestand, they'll get a sense of how much of what they've seen on TV they can believe.

Thirteen of the Dodgers' next 17 games are against some of baseball's better teams, the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays -- the only team on a more impressive binge than the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers can get through that stretch in good shape, they could glide into a dominant position before September, when divisional play kicks into full gear. From Aug. 12 through Aug. 28, the Dodgers play just one series against a team with a winning record.

It should make for a memorable pennant race, unless the Dodgers really are as good as they've been playing this past month. In that case, everybody better get out of the way. These guys could do some damage.