Dodgers nearing 'Miracle Braves' territory

Doug Pensinger

From where the Dodgers started the season, they have had the greatest turnaround in baseball in 99 years.

The Dodgers with their win on Monday reached a high-water mark of the season, now with a 12½-game lead in the National League West, their largest divisional lead since Sept. 14, 1977. The Dodgers are also now a season-high 27 games over .500, which given their horrific start to the season puts them in exclusive company.

After opening the season 30-42 (.417) the Dodgers are an absurd 52-13, having played .800 ball for more than 10 weeks. Since 1901 only three teams have battled back from 12 games under .500 to at least 22 games over .500, per David Smith at Retrosheet: the 1914 Boston Braves, the 2009 Colorado Rockies and these Dodgers.

1914 Braves

Boston's National League entry had a terrible start to the 1914 season, with 18 losses in their first 22 games. They reached a season-low 16 games under .500 at 12-28 on June 8. The Braves trailed by 13½ games on that day and as late as July 4 stood in last place at 26-40 and 15 games behind John McGraw's New York Giants, winners of the previous three National League pennants (and losers of the previous three World Series, but who's counting?).

But there is a reason that Boston team is called The Miracle Braves. They finished the season on a 68-19 (.782) clip, including 21-4 to end the season. The Braves ended with a 94-59 record, a cool 10½ games ahead of New York. Their reward for winning the National League pennant was to face Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, winners of three of the previous four World Series and home of "the $100,000 infield," which included Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker.

The favored A's, winners of 99 games during the regular season, were dispatched in four games by the Braves for just the second sweep in World Series history. Boston outscored Philadelphia 16-6 in the four games.

2009 Rockies

When thinking of improbable Colorado postseason runs most might think of the 2007 Rocktober Rockies, winners of 21 of 22 games through the National League Championship Series (and ultimately, winners of 21 of 26 games through the World Series). But the 2009 Rockies were an amazing story in their own right.

The team was languishing and after a three-game sweep by the Dodgers in late May, Colorado fired manager Clint Hurdle after his 18-28 start. The team would fall to a season-worst 20-32 and 15½ games behind the Dodgers in old friend Jim Tracy's first week, but then the Rockies won 11 straight and 17 of their next 18 to start their run.

Colorado went 74-40 thanks to revolutionary ideas like "bat Troy Tulowitzki higher than sixth or seventh" and "play Carlos Gonzalez," and got to within one game of the Dodgers with two left to play at Dodger Stadium. It was remarkable for a division race declared by some idiot to be over months earlier, even if said idiot was correct with Dodgers wins in the final two games.

The Rockies ultimately got the last laugh on the Dodgers though as they dropped two home games in the National League Division Series in the ninth inning to the Phillies, paving the way for Philadelphia to torment the Dodgers for one more NLCS.

The 2013 Dodgers (82-55) are now 27 games over .500, with a shot to catch the 1914 Braves. A 99-win season would put the Dodgers 36 games over .500, and would require a 17-8 finish (a 101-61 record, which would require a 19-6 finish, would give the Dodgers a run from 12-under to 40-over .500). Considering the Dodgers just completed months of 19-6 and 23-6, that seems well within their reach.

What a miracle.

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