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Something old, something new ...

Deadline deals helped, but talented Dodgers were due

Posted: Wednesday August 9, 2006 12:58PM; Updated: Wednesday August 9, 2006 2:48PM
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Rafael Furcal (15) and his teammates celebrate the Dodgers' 11th straight victory after beating the Rockies on Tuesday night.
Rafael Furcal (15) and his teammates celebrate the Dodgers' 11th straight victory after beating the Rockies on Tuesday night.

"It is the same old story with the Dodgers these days," announcer Vin Scully remarked during Monday's game in Los Angeles. "You give them an inch, and they take a whole ballgame."

With another victory on Wednesday night, the Dodgers can swallow the entire foot. The once-lost, now-found team has won 11 straight games, grabbed a share of the National League wild-card lead and closed to within a half-game of the first-place Padres. Given that their division is the oft-maligned NL West, one could say the Dodgers have taken the world by drizzle, but that doesn't change the fact that they have again become a group to be reckoned with.

Remarkably, the Dodgers' winning streak immediately followed an eight-game losing streak (not to mention 13 losses in 14 games), a fact that would have people searching for an explanation if there wasn't an obvious one right in front of them: The Dodgers' turnaround came right as they emerged as one of baseball's most aggressive teams at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

The Dodgers added two new players in the final hour -- pitcher Greg Maddux and infielder Julio Lugo -- days after acquiring infielder Wilson Betemit and pitcher Elmer Dessens.

Those moves made a lot of noise, but they're not the complete explanation. Before everyone gets carried away with the idea that it was the deals that did it all, let's quickly review their impact so far.

• With modest run support, Maddux pitched 12 innings in his first two starts (including six no-hit innings in his debut) and allowed a total of two runs, accounting for the better part of two victories.

• Betemit made a difference in his first game, going 3 for 4 in a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. He also had a single and a home run in a 10-4 rout over the Cincinnati Reds, and a game-tying home run in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. Overall, his OPS with the Dodgers is a fine .970.

• Lugo, the shortstop in the midst of the best season of his career when he came over from Tampa Bay, has flashed a fine glove while moving over to second base but hasn't made an offensive dent, with an OPS of .619.

• Dessens pitched seven effective innings in relief (1.29 ERA) before going on the disabled list with a tweaked ankle.

Without delving deeper into the stats, and assuming the worst about the guys they replaced on the roster (Cesar Izturis, Danys Baez, Willy Aybar and Odalis Perez), you could chalk up as many as four victories to the new talent. For all those contributions, that leaves seven victories in the streak unaccounted for. Which means the Dodgers who were acquired before July must be doing something right, too.

The Dodgers didn't go from the coldest team in baseball to the hottest thanks entirely to general manager Ned Colletti working through lunch on July 31. To paraphrase the philosopher, they were due. They began their winning streak before any deadline trades were made, and even if no changes had come, they could have reasonably been expected to win six of their last 11. Maybe five of their last 11. Definitely four.