Something strange is happening at Dodger Stadium.
Suddenly, remarkably, the Dodgers are healthier and playing better baseball.
The Dodgers’ 6-5 victory Tuesday over the San Francisco Giants was their fourth consecutive, their longest winning streak of the season. They won with hitting, fielding and starting pitching the Giants could not match in the middle game of a three-game series.
It was supposed to be like this in April and May and now that June has almost turned to July, it appears the Dodgers might be onto something good. They’re still last in the National League West approaching the midway point of the season, but there’s still more than half of the year to play.
“We’ve put some wins together and it feels good,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Even another subpar showing from beleaguered reliever Brandon League couldn’t ruin this night. League entered the game with the Dodgers’ leading 6-3 in the ninth because closer Kenley Jansen was unavailable after pitching Sunday and Monday.
League gave up a single to Hunter Pence, a run-scoring double to Brandon Belt and a run-scoring single to Andres Torres before Mattingly pulled him in favor of Paco Rodriguez with the lead down to 6-5 and no one out. Brandon Crawford then singled and it looked like it might slip away.
Instead, Rodriquez retired pinch hitter Juan Perez on a fly to center, struck out Gregor Blanco and then watched in horror along with what remained of a crowd of 41,193 as Marco Scutaro drove a line drive to the warning track in center field.
Matt Kemp proved his right hamstring was in top form by racing from a drawn-in position to make a sliding catch to end the game. Kemp then popped to his feet to high-five the center-field fence as the Dodgers breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“It took a year off my life,” Mattingly said of the harrowing ninth.
With the Dodgers regaining their health with the return of Kemp from the disabled list Tuesday, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Mark Ellis hitting two-run home runs and right-hander Stephen Fife (2-2) throwing 6 2/3 superb innings, all seemed right in the Dodgers’ world.
League’s meltdown was the only reason for worry at game’s end.
“It’s one of those things you hate to see anyone go through,” Mattingly said when asked about the status of League, whose 3-3 record and 5.72 ERA in 28 1/3 innings would seem to disqualify him from appearing in future save situations.
Mattingly disagreed with any notion of putting League in a mop-up role, saying, “We need the guy to bounce back and pitch well. There are going to be days when we need big outs. We’re going to need him to help us. You can’t do anything but feel bad for him right now.”
Ellis slugged a two-run homer in the third inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Ramirez slammed a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole to break a 2-all tie in the sixth after Adrian Gonzalez doubled to ignite the rally.
And so it went for the Dodgers at the plate.
On the mound, Fife retired the first 11 batters he faced before San Francisco catcher Buster Posey smacked a bases-empty homer to trim the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1 in the fourth. Fife departed in favor of reliever J.P. Howell with the Dodgers leading 6-3 in the seventh.