Much like most of August, everything seemed to go the Dodgers way last night. A line drive rockets of Maddux's foot directly to Wilson Betemit. Nomar was about to get thrown out at home due to another overenthusiastic windmill by third base coach Rich Donnelly, and Jason LaRue dropped the ball. Whenever the Dodgers needed a double play, they got it. Whenever a fielder misplayed a ball, it dropped right in front of him. When you're hot, everything seems to go your way, and right now the Dodgers are as hot as any team in baseball.
The victory completed the season sweep of the Reds, capping off an August where the Dodgers went 21-7, a .750 winning percentage. Despite how incredible the Dodgers have been this month, the rest of the league had to play just as poorly for the Dodgers to surge into first place. Heading into the month, the Dodgers were 50-55, five games out of first. If the Dodgers played just .550 ball, not a terrible month, but one that would be appropriate considering how badly they played before hand, the Dodgers would be 66-67, two games out of first and one and a half games back in the wild card. Consequently, the Dodgers success is probably more based in being in a league where a sub .500 team can be right in the thick of things at the beginning of September, than by any actual talent the team has. Actually winning the games is just icing on the cake.
It's fun to note the difference when you win 21 games in a major market versus a small market. The Dodgers go 21-7 in August, the national media response is "Ned Colletti for NL MVP!" Meanwhile, the A's go 21-6, make the "the A's are the best team in baseball" predictions suddenly look accurate, and I don't think anyone noticed. I know I didn't until this morning.
The Dodgers magic number is down to 27, so barring any miracle runs by both the Phillies and Padres, simply playing a little better than .500 ball will get the Dodgers into the playoffs. We know how good this team can be, but we also know how bad it can be. The good team just has to show up a little over half the time this month, and things should be fine.