At their most vulnerable, Dodgers blowing out rest of NL West

With the Dodgers at what should be their most vulnerable, now is the perfect opportunity for the Giants and Diamondbacks to turn the NL West chase back into a race.

Except, it ain't happening.

And as the Giants work on sorting things out and waiting for Pablo Sandoval's return, you have to wonder whether the Diamondbacks' encore to their 94-win summer a year ago is about to fall flat.

With MVP candidate Matt Kemp (hamstring) on the disabled list, the Dodgers nevertheless are 7-2 in his absence.

Into Wednesday's games, they had increased their NL West lead over second-place San Francisco by one game during that span, to seven games.

And they had increased their division lead over third-place Arizona by three games, to an 11 1/2-game gap.

And the thing is, Kemp isn't the only disabled Dodger. Infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. (hamstring), second baseman Mark Ellis (knee) and third baseman Juan Uribe (wrist) are out, too.

Yet Anthony Gwynn is batting .343 while spelling Kemp in center field. Andre Ethier leads the NL with 40 RBI. Catcher A.J. Ellis is having a spectacular year, having reached base in 32 of 34 games and ranking fourth in the majors with a .448 on-base percentage. Ted Lilly, who starts at Arizona on Wednesday night, has won a career-high eight consecutive decisions and has compiled a 1.37 ERA while going 8-0.

At 30-13, the Dodgers own baseball's best record. At a time when they should have been tripped up by too many trips to the trainers' room, Don Mattingly's crew instead has the pedal to the metal.

In winning six in a row while missing key personnel, the Dodgers are averageing 6.7 runs per game and are batting .333 as a team.

They're off to their best 43-game start since 1983 (also 30-13). And if the Giants, Diamondbacks and the rest of the NL West don't figure something out soon ... the Dodgers are only going to get healthier from here. Both on the field, and in the standings.

Likes: You root for interesting stories in my world, not for particular teams. And to that end, looking at the AL East standings these days -- which appear totally upside down -- is great fun. ... Midweek day baseball games. Loved Wednesday's schedule. ... Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's lineups. Carlos Pena leading off against Toronto on Wednesday? Drew Sutton hitting cleanup? Awesome. ... Reluctant to admit this because it's so immature, but the Cole Hamels-Bryce Harper stuff is good, pure fun. Nothing like testosterone to fuel a rivalry. ... Carnage, the Roman Polanski-directed adaptation of a stage play. Simple premise: Two sets of parents meet after their sons become engaged in a school-yard fight. The meeting begins cordially and deteriorates from there. It's enjoyable, mostly for the superb cast and great acting: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly all are as good as you would expect. ... The weeks when Steve Rushin is back in Sports Illustrated. ... Graduations and graduation parties. A sure sign of long, hot summer days and nights ahead. Be careful out there.

Dislikes: When I'm not actually at one of their games, the Padres are nothing more than a rumor to me. Their local television situation is a joke. They signed a new deal with Fox Sports San Diego this year, but the new channel isn't available on Time-Warner cable or AT&T U-verse, which accounts for up to 42 percent of San Diego County. Including my part of town. Padres attendance already has declined significantly, and with nearly half the county not getting their games on television, it's only going to get worse from here. ... Tivo'd PBS' doc on Johnny Carson last week but haven't had time to watch yet. Hear great things about it.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I think about you
"I think about 17
"I think about my old Jeep
"I think about the stars in the sky
"Funny how a melody sounds like a memory
"Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night"

-- Eric Church, Springsteen

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