Tigers brace for ‘phenomenal’ Dodgers juggernaut
Detroit — It’s the baseball equivalent of the Golden State Warriors’ annual visit to The Palace; only this hasn’t happened since 2008.
The mighty, mighty Los Angeles Dodgers are bringing their history-making crusade to Comerica Park this weekend. And what the Warriors did in the NBA, the Dodgers are doing to Major League Baseball — making a mockery of the regular season.
“It usually doesn’t happen that way; even if you are playing great, it doesn’t happen like that,” right fielder Alex Presley said. “It’s like Oregon State (baseball) had that ridiculous record (56-6, 23 straight wins) — you look at that and think it’s a joke. The Dodgers are doing something very similar at this level.
“It’s pretty amazing.”
That it is.
■ The Dodgers are 85-34, 51 games over .500. They are the first team to be at least 50 games over .500 since the 2004 Cardinals. They are the first Dodgers team to achieve it since the Brooklyn Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider fame back in 1953.
■ They are presently on a 50-9 run, which included a 43-7 stretch.
■ They could lose every game from now until Labor Day and still lead their division.
■ Their run differential is an otherworldly plus-214.
■They haven’t lost a series since June 5-7.
■They’ve had 38 comeback wins and 10 walk-offs.
■ They had a modern-day record 57 straight games with at least two extra base hits.
“They’re on a historical run, no question,” said Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer, who will start Saturday against the Dodgers. “And they are doing it with (ace) Clayton Kershaw still on the disabled list. This team has youth. It has veterans. And everybody is doing their part.
“Everybody knows their role and everybody does their role. And obviously, their team chemistry is through the roof because they are playing together.”
But don’t run the Warriors comparison by Fulmer. An avid Oklahoma City Thunder fan, he still hasn’t forgiven the Warriors for “stealing away” Kevin Durant.
“I don’t like that comparison,” he said. “Golden State had to go out and pick up a guy. Unless you want me to hate the Dodgers, too. Any comparison to Golden State, I don’t like.”
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who finished his career with the Dodgers in 2010, didn’t buy the Warriors comp, either.
“They are a very good team, but other than Kershaw, I don’t know if they have a lot of star power,” he said. “They have a lot of players who might end up as stars — guys like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. But they are still young in their careers.
“They are a very talented group, but not necessarily household names yet. But don’t get me wrong; everybody in baseball knows who these people are. And obviously, they are very, very good.”
The Dodgers have three offensive players among the top 10 in the National League in WAR — Seager, hitting .310 with 19 home runs and 59 RBIs, is third (5.1); Justin Turner, whose .345 average leads the league, fifth (4.9) and Chris Taylor, .303, 17 homers and 56 RBIs, is 10th (4.1).
Bellinger, who started the year in Triple-A, has 34 homers and 79 RBIs.
Tigers fans will miss Kershaw, still on the DL with back injury.
“I won’t miss him,” Ausmus joked. “I caught him; I don’t need to see him pitch against us.”
Kershaw, 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA, is expected back in early September.
“They are getting a lot of production they probably weren’t really counting on,” Ausmus said. “I don’t think they were counting on Bellinger doing what he’s doing. You couldn’t expect that from anyone. Even Turner, although he is doing it for a second year, they couldn’t have expected this when they got him.
“Good teams always have surprise contributions.”
There aren’t many SoCal natives in the Tigers’ clubhouse these days. Andrew Romine is an Angels guy, living in the Anaheim area and having played for them. James McCann, though, grew up a Dodgers fan.
“I liked Raul Mondesi,” he said. “I remember him because going to the games I thought everyone was booing him, but they were yelling, ‘Raoool.’ ”
Gary Sheffield, Eric Karros, Chan Ho Park, a young Adrian Beltre — those were McCann’s Dodgers. And as exciting as those players could be, they didn’t approach what this Dodger team is doing.
“You could go up to Derek Jeter or any of those guys who won World Series after World Series in this game and that streak these guys are on — 43-7? That just blows you away,” McCann said. “They don’t even know what it’s like to lose a game.”
Justin Upton echoed that.
“Just phenomenal,” he said. “The fact that you can go out and do everything right in this game and still lose — that makes what they’re doing even more impressive. Obviously, they’re doing everything right because they’re winning every one of them.
“It’s crazy to watch.”
The only thing better than watching them, of course, would be to beat them, to hang the first losing series on them since early June.
“When you play at this level, you want to play against the best,” McCann said. “And they are the best right now.”
The Dodgers have a .714 winning percentage, which would rank as the sixth-best in MLB since 1900.
1906 Chicago Cubs, 116-36 (.763)
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, 103-36 (.741)
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, 110-42 (.724)
1954 Cleveland Indians, 111-43 (.721)
2001 Seattle Mariners, 116-46 (.716)
1927 New York Yankees, 110-44 (.714)
The Dodgers are on pace to win 116 games, which would tie the MLB record.
1906 Chicago Cubs, 116 wins
2001 Seattle Mariners, 116
1998 New York Yankees, 114
1954 Cleveland Indians, 111
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, 110
1927 New York Yankees, 110
Dodgers at Tigers
Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Friday; 4:05 p.m. Saturday; 1:10 p.m. Sunday
TV/radio: Friday and Sunday: Fox Sports Detroit; Sunday, Fox Sporst Detroit, FS1. All three games on 97.1 FM.
Probables:Friday – LHP Rich Hill (8-4, 3.44) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-9, 5.62); Saturday — LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-6, 3.63) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (10-10, 3.78); Sunday — RHP Kenta Maeda (11-4, 3.76) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (8-8, 4.11).
Hill, Dodgers: Appropriate a Michigan man would get the start on University of Michigan night. Since July 1, the former Wolverine has been lights out. The Dodgers are 6-1 in his seven starts. He’s allowed 10 runs in 42 innings (2.14) with 57 strikeouts and just nine walks. Opponents are hitting .195 against him in that stretch.
Zimmermann, Tigers: He’s coming off a clunker against the Twins (seven runs, two homers in 3.1 innings). But he was seemingly rounding back into form before that. His slider and curve hold the key to his success. When he’s getting depth on those pitches, he gets ground balls. When he’s not, he’s giving up hard contact and a lot of home runs.