Daily Distractions: When time zones matter.

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You don’t realize how much travel can take a toll on a baseball team until a game like Thursday’s, when a Dodgers team that had scored 41 runs in its last four games scored only two against a pitcher who’d never won at Dodger Stadium in his life.

That’s what happened when Mat Latos beat Zack Greinke — who’d never lost at Dodger Stadium in his life.

Of course, there were also times that the Dodgers didn’t look sluggish or lifeless, and the fact that their inbound flight from Toronto touched down at 4 a.m. Thursday may have amounted to nothing more than a convenient excuse for a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

After the game, I asked Greinke if the previous 24 hours were the worst travel he’d experienced in his brief time as a West Coast pitcher. They weren’t, he said, but he didn’t deny that the last year has been an adjustment.

“Travel in the west is definitely not good, but people do it. It’s the only way you can do it,” Greinke said. “Central travel is amazing. You don’t realize it until you’re somewhere else. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Greinke had pitched his entire career in either Kansas City or Milwaukee before being traded to the Angels mid-season in 2012.

The impact of travel is something you might never notice by simply reading the box scores, but if you looked at the Dodgers’ schedule before the season, you would have been wise to circle the game in Toronto followed by the game in Los Angeles 24 hours later.

Looking ahead, there’s some good news: The Dodgers don’t play games three time zones apart on consecutive days after August 22.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:
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Dodgers designate Ted Lilly for assignment and recall Elian Herrera.

Ted Lilly

Ted Lilly spent more time on the disabled list than the Dodgers’ active roster this season, going 0-2 in five starts. (Associated Press)

The Dodgers designated Ted Lilly for assignment Thursday, ending the 37-year-old pitcher’s tenure in Los Angeles — and maybe his career.

“More than anything this year, it’s been an injury thing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Nobody wanted to do this. We like Ted. We think he can pitch. He just wouldn’t stay healthy.”

Lilly spent more time on the disabled this season than the active roster.
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers get a chance to show if their road trip was for real.

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers have won 10 straight road games, a first since the team moved to Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

To put the Dodgers’ 6-0 road trip in perspective — a different kind of perspective — consider that the two teams they swept, the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays, had completely winless homestands too.

Before losing three straight to the Dodgers, the Blue Jays were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays.

After losing three straight to the Dodgers, the Washington Nationals lost three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Take nothing away from the six-game winning streak and what it meant in the standings, but the Dodgers’ four-game weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds should provide a more accurate gauge of how well the team is playing.

It begins tonight against a pitcher, Mat Latos, who is 0-5 in his career at Dodger Stadium. Zack Greinke is 6-0 in his career at Dodger Stadium. So there’s a good omen.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
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Dodgers place Matt Kemp on 15-day disabled list, activate Ted Lilly.

The Dodgers placed Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle and activated Ted Lilly.

Kemp injured the ankle sliding at home plate in the ninth inning Sunday night against the Washington Nationals, his first game in the lineup after returning from a 15-day stay on the DL with inflammation in the AC joint of his left shoulder.

Lilly is expected to pitch out of the bullpen after missing approximately six weeks with a recurrence of pain in his neck. He last pitched June 4, pitching just four innings in a Dodgers win over the San Diego Padres.

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Daily Distractions: Run differential is finally on the Dodgers’ side.

A funny thing happened to the Dodgers in Canada. Funny things tend to happen in Canada in general.

The Dodgers, having outscored the Toronto Blue Jays 24-14 the past two days, have now scored more runs than they have allowed this season. The margin is slight enough (399 runs scored, 397 runs allowed) that this could change overnight.

Run differential is an interesting topic, as evidenced by a recent debate on MLB Network. Former player and current analyst Harold Reynolds declared “I have no idea what run differential is.” We’re going to assume that you’re smarter than Harold Reynolds and explore what this means for the Dodgers.

For some, it will mean their success is no fluke. In the article linked above, Rob Neyer wrote back on May 28 that the National League West was an anomalous jumble of teams that were outscoring opponents despite their failures in the standings, and this was unlikely to continue:

The Colorado Rockies have the best run differential (+31) … but they’re in third place. Sure, they’re just 2½ games out of first place. But third place is third place, and the Rockies trail the Diamondbacks (+26) and (somewhat oddly) the Giants (+1). Still, everything might look normal in just a few days, or in a week.

That was almost two months ago. Today, the Dodgers (+2) lead the Diamondbacks (+12) by a half-game, the Rockies (+2) by five games, the Giants (-54) by 6 ½ games and the Padres (-57) by eight. It’s starting to look normal. Two months from now, when the season is nearly over, that probably won’t change.

If those run differentials (and prevailing wisdom) are any indication, the Giants and Padres are going to be sunk for a while barring a miraculous turnaround, while the Dodgers will need to string together a few more convincing victories to make their hold on first place last.

Onto some bullet points for a Wednesday morning:

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