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Too Good to be True?
2003-04-14 09:05
by Jon Weisman

A hot start over the first two weeks of the season is no more a guarantee for the big prize than winning the New Hampshire primary, but you have to admit, these are pretty heady times to be a Dodger fan.

Honestly, even though some people thought that this would be the year the Dodgers finally put it all together, how many thought that Los Angeles would start the season with an 11-2 record?

Here’s a quick look back at how it all happened:

3/31 Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 0
4/01 Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 4
4/02 Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 0

The opening series against Arizona was stunning. A solid rout of Randy Johnson in the opener, then a shocking eighth-inning comeback from a 4-0 deficit against Curt Schilling in the second game (thank goodness coach Glenn Hoffman held baserunner Shawn Green at third base on Fred McGriff’s double, allowing Brian Jordan’s sacrifice fly to bring home the winning run). The Dodgers capped their season-opening sweep with the best of omens: a strong season debut by Kevin Brown.

4/03 Dodgers 1, Padres 0
4/04 Padres 4, Dodgers 2
4/05 Padres 3, Dodgers 0
4/06 Dodgers 4, Padres 3 (13)

A bit of a reality check came in the series against San Diego. Kazuhisa Ishii struggled in his first start but managed to wriggle out of a rough fourth inning unscathed, and the bullpen held up the rest of the way. Two lackluster losses followed that game, followed by the evaporation of a three-run lead in the series finale. But the weary Dodgers pushed a run across in the fourth extra frame, and went back to Los Angeles with a 5-2 record. Still, at 1Z games behind the 6-0 Giants, you couldn’t get too excited.

4/07 Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 2
4/08 Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 3
4/09 Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 2

Taking advantage of not having to face Johnson or Schilling a second time, the Dodgers swept the reeling Diamondbacks for a second time. They nearly blew a three-run lead for the second game in a row (at the home opener), but held on, before timely hitting and solid pitching gave them two more victories. Meanwhile, the Giants finally lost. Now, it was off to San Francisco: the 8-2 Dodgers against the 8-1 Giants.

4/10 Dodgers 2, Giants 1
4/11 Dodgers 2, Giants 1
4/12 Dodgers 5, Giants 4 (12)

Three exciting, energizing one-run victories – amazing! Marquis Grissom makes a bid to hurt his former teammates in the series opener, but his long fly ball is hauled in by Dave Roberts. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre finally showed signs of disciplined hitting. His second-inning RBI single with two on gave the Dodgers an early lead in the first game – and though the Giants tied it in the bottom of the inning, Paul Lo Duca’s run on a Tim Worrell wild pitch won it. In the second game, after Odalis Perez left in the top of the sixth with an ankle injury, Beltre’s ninth-inning home run won it. And Sunday night, of course – following Saturday’s rainout - in the 12th inning, Todd Hundley raced from first to third on a LoDuca single and scored when Marvin Benard’s wild heave from right field went into the Dodger dugout. Eric Gagne stayed in to pitch his third inning of relief and seal the victory that put the Dodgers 2Z up on San Francisco, and if you can believe it, eight games up on the Diamondbacks.

Indeed, there’s much to celebrate with the Dodgers. The team ERA is 3.02, fourth in the major leagues. The starting rotation, Perez’ ankle injury aside, looks healthy, and the bullpen has been almost sensational. At the plate, the hitting has been timely.

But we shouldn’t let the fast start mask some real concerns with this team. The team still has trouble getting on base – only after Sunday’s game did the Dodger on-base percentage cross the .300 mark. Hundley, of all people, is second on the team in walks with seven, despite playing only five games. Power is sporadic, and there is a real lack of team speed. In short, the Dodgers’ margin for error has been razor-thin. A few inches here or there, and that sterling 11-2 record could just as easily be, say, 5-8.

Bottom line: the Dodgers should not get caught up in their record. Today is April 14. Kansas City is 9-1; Arizona is 2-10. Luck is gonna change. There are definite strengths to this team - you don't win seven games in a row by simple twists of fate - but yes indeed, there are weaknesses as well. As the Dodgers return home to face the Padres and Giants again this week, they just need to focus on trying to do better.

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