The Dodgers, Manny Machado’s new team, have a chance to get into the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. After the first six weeks, the Dodgers appeared to be going nowhere.
Thanks to a season-ending elbow injury, shortstop Corey Seager, who will return next season, played his final game for the Dodgers on April 29.
On May 16, the Dodgers lost 6-5 in Miami to fall 10 games below .500 and 8 1/2 game back of the Diamondbacks in the National League West.
So why would there be a need for a shortstop? The Dodgers were trending in the wrong direction.
Since then, the NL West has changed. The D-Backs were 18-7 in April, 9-18 in May and 19-9 in June. Their inconsistent play helped the Dodgers get back into the race.
The Dodgers are 10 games over .500 and lead the NL West when they resume the season Friday in Milwaukee, the start of a 12-game, three-city trip that also goes to Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Machado, acquired in a trade late Wednesday, hit .315 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs for Baltimore. He hit a home run in his final game as an Oriole at Camden Yards and played five innings in the All-Star Game in D.C. He’ll bat second or third because the Dodgers want him to bat in the first inning.
He takes over at shortstop for Chris Taylor, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has talked to Machado about being flexible enough to play either shortstop or third base.
Taylor didn’t hit as well this year as he did last year when he was a surprise that helped the Dodgers reach the World Series. They lost to Houston in seven games.
Taylor, 27, hit .288 with 21 home runs for the Dodgers last season as a center fielder. This year, he’s hitting .253 with 11 home runs. With Machado on board, he’ll move to second base and be an upgrade over Logan Forsythe (.208).
Justin Turner is the Dodgers’ third baseman, but he missed the final four games before the break with an abductor injury. He’s likely to be back Friday, but Machado could start at third base.
As a free agent, Machado wants to be a shortstop. But he also said he’ll play wherever his new team needs him.
When Taylor plays second, that moves Max Muncy, the surprise competitor in the All-Star Home Run Derby, to first base and Cody Bellinger to center field.
But Taylor can also play center. Bellinger, Enrique Hernández and Muncy are comfortable playing in the outfield or infield.
The Dodgers value flexibility.
A year ago, the Dodgers traded for Texas starter Yu Darvish at the deadline.
This year, the Dodgers rank fifth in the NL in runs scored (453). Their 129 home runs lead the NL and their pitching staff has the lowest ERA (3.41).
In the NL West, the D-Backs have pitched well, but struggled with their hitting, unusual for them. The Rockies are the other way around - lots of hitting, but no pitching. The Giants, who could get Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, have been inconsistent all-around. San Diego is rebuilding.
The Dodgers are trying to win the World Series for the first time since 1988.