By Don Wanlass
The Dodgers are finding out that Shakespeare was right.
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown” is a line from Shakepeare’s “Henry IV.”
Some refer to it as a post-championship hangover. Whatever it is, the Dodgers are having a topsy-turvy season, with big winning streaks followed by horrid losing streaks and vice versa.
Last week the Dodgers were looking up at the Giants and the Padres in the National League West standings after being swept by the San Diego Padres in a three-game series in San Diego and coming home to Dodger Stadium and getting no-hit by the Chicago Cubs, June 24.
But since that four-game losing streak that equaled the longest this year for the Boys in Blue, the Dodgers have won five in a row, winning the last three games in the Cubs’ series and then sweeping the first-place Giants in a brief-two-game set at Dodger Stadium June 28 and 29 to move within a game and half of the division lead.
The two games with the Giants were two classic games between pennant contenders and arch rivals.
Both were low-scoring pitching duels with the Dodgers winning with 3-2 and 3-1 scores.
In the first game, Trevor Bauer pitched six innings and yielded two runs and eight hits while striking out eight Giants. Victor Gonzalez, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen each yielded a hit in the inning they pitched, with Jansen recording his 19th save of the season.
All five runs came on solo home runs. The Dodgers staked Bauer to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Mookie Betts and Max Muncy hit back-to-back bombs off Anthony DeSclafani.
LaMonte Wade got a run back in the third for the Giants with a home run, but Will Smith matched that for the Dodgers in the fourth inning. Brandon Crawford homered off Bauer in the sixth for the last run of the game.
The Dodgers got off to a 2-0 lead early the next night when Chris Taylor made Kevin Gausman pay for his early wildness by doubling in two runs with two outs in the first inning.
Muncy hit his 17th home run of the season in the third inning and the Dodgers survived an unearned run by the Giants in the seventh to win get Walker Buehler his eighth win of the season.
The Dodgers have yet to hit their stride but they are still within easy striking distance of the Giants as the season nears its halfway point.
Cody Bellinger is healthy again, Corey Seager should be back shortly after the all-star break and the Giants haven’t hit a slump yet.
The top four starting pitchers on the team each have eight or nine victories. Only nine pitchers in the entire National League have as many as eight wins this year and the Dodgers have four of the nine.
Jansen is tied for second for the most saves in the league and it’s been a while since he has had a melt down out of the bullpen. Three months into the season, manager Dave Roberts seems to have found reliable arms to bridge the distance between the starters and Jansen with Treinen, Gonzalez, Joe Kelly, Jimmy Nelson and Phil Bickford all recording earned run averages between 1.38 (Jansen) and 3.13 (Treinen).
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Dodgers have a 98.9% chance of making the postseason and a 15.6% chance of winning the World Series.
Five hitters are already in double figures for home runs and five or six more figure to reach that number by the time the season ends.
Eighty games into the season, the Dodgers are finally getting used to wearing the crown of a World Series champion. It should get easier the rest of the way.
BACKS TO THE WALL: The Clippers have spent the entire playoffs with their backs against the wall, so there is no sense in counting them out even if they trail the Phoenix Suns three games to two going into game six at Staples Center June 30.
Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard for the entire series, the Clippers have managed to stay alive and could possibly send the series to gave seven July 2 in Phoenix.
If they survive Phoenix, anything is possible. The NBA Playoffs this year has featured one injury after another to key players up and down the league. Stars like Anthiony Davis of the Lakers, Joel Embid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, Mike Conley amd Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Chris Paul of the Suns … the list goes on and on.
In the Eastern Conference final, Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young missed Game 4 June 29 after spraining an ankle when he accidently stepped on a referee’s foot in Game 3.
The Hawks managed to win game four without Young. They were helped by a knee injury suffered by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the third quarter that looked serious.
The winner of this season’s NBA Championship may be the last team standing, one more sign that the league needed to give its players a longer offseason than they did this year.
Yes, the pandemic messed up lots of things, but the fans don’t want to watch a championship series this season with this many star players sitting on the sidelines.
INGLEWOOD BOWL GAME: You can’t blame Rams owner Stan Kroenke for getting as much out of his new stadium in Inglewood as possible, but did this world really need another college football bowl game?
We will find out in December when SoFi Stadium hosts the — get ready for this — the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. The game will be played Dec. 18 and will feature the No. 5 selection from the Pac 12 Conference against the No. 1 selection from the Mountain West Conference (think Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii).
It will be televised on ABC in prime time, which likely means a 5 p.m. start here.
Anaheim hosted the Freedom Bowl from 1984 to 1994 and way back in the 1960s and early 70s, Pasadena hosted the Junior Rose Bowl a couple of weeks before the real thing (I remember seeing Long Beach State play Louisville in a game that might have attracted 15,000 spectators into the 100,000-seat Rose Bowl back in the day).
I’m not sure, though if Los Angeles needs another bowl game, unless Kroenke is hoping that USC or UCLA will finish fifth in the Pac 12, in which case their fans won’t show up anyway.
Ever the showman, Kimmel announced the game on his late-night television show June 16.
“Ever since I was 52 — which was last year — I’ve dreamed of having a college football bowl game named after me,” Kimmel said. “I’m thrilled to announce that dream is coming true.”
The naming of the game is the result of what was described as “an unprecedented multi-year partnership” between Kimmel and SoFi Stadium.
Kimmel will work with Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl community partners One For All, Boys and Girls Club LA Harbor and Boys and Girls Club LA Metro and additional Los Angeles charities, some of which he has long supported.
Organizers also are seeking a presenting sponsor for the game.
The LA Bowl was supposed to debut last Dec. 30, but was shelved by the pandemic.