The Dodgers finally have their entire outfield together, healthy. Is it time for baseball -- and, most immediately, the Blue Jays -- to take notice?
Stacked with a high payroll and equally-high expectations, the Dodgers have apparently hit their stride, and now that Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig are all contributing, the Dodgers may be poised to make their move in the up-for-grabs National League West.
Standing in their way this week are the Blue Jays, who after being swept by the red-hot Rays this weekend, remain in last place in the ultra-competitive American League East. The Dodgers are unbeaten (6-0-3) in their last nine series after sweeping the Nationals in Washington.
Kemp was reinstated from the disabled list before Sunday's series finale against the Nationals (left AC joint inflammation) and made an immediate impact with a 3-for-4 day, homering in his first at-bat before leaving in the ninth inning with an apparent ankle injury.
Puig was the odd man out in manager Don Mattingly's outfield on Sunday, something the skipper will have to juggle assuming Kemp remains in the lineup going forward.
"We can only play three of those guys," Mattingly said. "When we were missing Matt and Carl at different times, Yasiel was just a force, so we kind of had it. Since we got Yasiel and [Hanley Ramirez] together, we've kind of had that mixture of guys, for the most part. Having all four to me just gives us better chances to keep everybody rested and also match up a little bit better."
Puig, stuck in an 0-for-11 slump, had what Mattingly hopes will be a productive day off on Sunday before coming in for Kemp in the ninth.
"A day to watch, sometimes, is good," Mattingly said. "He's one of those guys that wants to keep playing. He wants to be out there, be out there, be out there, but sometimes being able to sit here and watch the game can help you."
The Blue Jays have lost six of their last seven series and eight of their last 11 games.
Dodgers: Ryu remains durable
• Rookie lefty and Monday starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has reached the sixth inning in 16 of his 18 starts this year. His last outing, against the D-backs, only lasted five innings.
He has struggled on the road, with a 3-2 mark and 4.42 ERA in nine outings.
• Dodgers relievers have combined to post a 0.47 ERA over their last 14 games. They've limited opposing hitters to a .160 average with 41 strikeouts in that span.
Blue Jays: Johnson looking to get back on track
Toronto right-hander Josh Johnson, who gets the ball in Monday's series opener, will try to bounce back from one of his worst starts in a Blue Jays uniform his last time out against the Orioles.
Johnson, still looking for his second win of the season, gave up four runs in the first inning, and ultimately surrendered seven in six frames. His ERA climbed to 5.16.
"It seemed like I couldn't catch a break. I threw a couple [bad] pitches in the first inning," Johnson said. "First batter wasn't a good pitch, I just got behind. Two hitters in a row, I threw pretty good pitches, they just got base hits."
He is 3-2 with a 5.84 ERA in seven career starts against the Dodgers.
• On June 21, the Dodgers were a season-worst 12 games under .500. Since then, they're tied with the Rays for the Majors' best record at 21-5.
• Johnson's ERA has not dipped below 4.38 this season.