Jun 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) sprints to 1st base and legs out a double in the 5th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians (39-42) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (47-37)


Indians Start Second Half With a Test Against the Dodgers

Well, we’ve made it. No, not to the promised land. We’re far from that point, actually. Where we are is the official half way point of the 2014 season. After 81 games, we’re at the point where small sample sizes can be thrown out the window for the most part. At this point we should have a solid idea of what the Indians are and where they’re headed.

The thing is, after a very uneven 81 games, the result of which has been a 39-42 record, it’s hard to know for sure exactly what the Indians are. Yes, they’re under .500, but until about a week ago they were over .500 and looked like they had found their stride. At this point, they are one of the better offensive teams in baseball. On the flip side, they are without question the worst defensive team. They’re getting great performances from unexpected places, i.e. Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, and David Murphy, and lousy performances from others, i.e. Justin Masterson, Jason Kipnis, and Nick Swisher.

Without question, it’s been frustrating to watch. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Bi-polar baseball… who knew that was a thing? So after 81 games, what better way to start the next 81 games than against a team that very clearly knows who and what they are.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have used 2014 as a continuation of their spectacular 2013 season. Led by the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers are a legit title contender. At 47-37 they find themselves tied with their arch rivals, the San Francisco Giants, atop the NL West standings. It’s not fluke either. The Dodgers are good. Like, they’re really, really good.

The Dodgers are among the best in all of baseball in nearly every major statistical category. They are 10th in runs scored and their triple slash line of .258/.328/.402 ranks 9th, 6th, and 9th respectively. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given the arsenal of bats that can fill out their lineup on a daily basis – Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and on and on it goes.

But make no mistake about it, Puig is the headliner here. Right now he is the baseball equivalent of Metallica or Kiss in their prime. He’s great at what he does and people either love it or hate it. Regardless of how you come out on the issue, it’s hard to deny the impact that Puig has had on the Dodgers and all of baseball in such a limited amount of time. At .312/.402/.521 with 11 homers and 45 he is well on his way to an all-star selection, only further solidifying his super-star status.

dodgers

Jun 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27), right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) and center fielder Andre Ethier (hidden) celebrate the Dodgers 6-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

While sporting arguably the most exciting player in the game today, the Dodgers also sport the most exciting pitcher as well. Of course I’m referring to Clayton Kershaw. The dominating lefty is on his way to another Cy Young award. He’s a freak of nature on the mound, an unhittable force that can render even the best lineup punchless.

Knowing that, it should be seen as the first big break of the second half for the Indians that they won’t have to face Kershaw. After pitching on Sunday, he is the last thing the Indians need to worry about right now. Instead, the Tribe will get to face Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-jin Ryu. All are solid pitchers capable of turning in a shutdown performance, but they aren’t Clayton Kershaw. Not even close.

So, can the Indians, losers in six of their last eight games, break out of their most recent funk against the Dodgers? Honestly, it’s hard to paint a picture where the Indians take two of three from the Dodgers. They are rolling right now. After Sunday afternoon’s victory against the Cardinals, the Dodgers have won 16 of their last 23 games. Everyone is hitting for them, especially Dee Gordon (.322/.380/.511 with 14 runs scored in June thus far), and their pitching has been lights out.

Meanwhile, the Indians continue to let defensive miscues undercut what could and should have been a spectacular follow-up to their first playoff season since 2007. But hey, that’s why they play the games and there are 81 of these things left. A lot can happen in 81 games. If the Indians have any hope of turning things around, then it has to start tonight against the Dodgers. A solid showing could go a long way towards instilling confidence. However, get swept and a lot of people might begin calling for the waiving of the white flag.

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Tags: Clayton Kershaw Cleveland Indians Yasiel Puig