The big-money stars just might be coming on at the right time.

For nearly the entire season, the Los Angeles Dodgers could not get health or consistent, steady production from the bulk of their highly priced core, especially the men whose primary job is hitting.

But as the final week of the regular season begins and the postseason starts to yawn and stretch as it wakes, the Dodgers appear to be hitting full sprinting speed despite a 13-inning loss Monday night that kept their magic number to win the National League West at three.

From Aug. 31 through the start of Monday’s game, the Dodgers had one of the most devastating offenses in the majors with a .308/.369/.478 slash line and an .847 OPS. As a team this month, the Dodgers are second in the majors with 120 runs scored (three behind the leading Los Angeles Angels), leading with 27 home runs, second with 341 total bases and second with an .820 OPS.

That is monstrous production, and it’s the stars leading the way:

• Since the All-Star break, Matt Kemp, one of the game’s best all-around players in 2011 and part of 2012 before a shoulder injury sapped him, has hit .304/.363/.580 with a .943 OPS, 15 homers and 49 RBIs. In September, he has hit a major league-leading seven home runs and went into the week with a 1.044 OPS.

“He’s been great,” manager Don Mattingly told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “It seems like a lot of our guys have been stepping up. He’s certainly one of those guys.”

• Since Sept. 5 and going into Monday, Hanley Ramirez has been red hot. He hit .451/.509/.588 with a 1.097 OPS, seven doubles and 11 RBIs in 15 games. He was also hitting .511 on balls he put into play.

• Adrian Gonzalez has joined the romp since the break. He went into Monday hitting .326/.378/.561 with a .939 OPS, 11 home runs and 52 RBIs in his previous 59 games.

• Yasiel Puig, the most polarizing player in the sport, had been going through a prolonged slump since Aug. 4. In 31 games from that date, Puig hit .186/.289/.212 without a home run and five RBIs. But from Sept. 13 to the start of Monday’s contest, Puig was 17-for-40 (.425) with a 1.152 OPS and two home runs in nine games.

• Finally, since Aug. 10 and entering the week, Carl Crawford was hitting .411/.449/.579 with a 1.029 OPS, seven doubles, three homers, 20 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 34 games. He also homered Monday.


Those five players have contracts worth a combined $568 million, although the Dodgers haven’t paid all of that money since Gonzalez, Crawford and Ramirez were acquired through trades after those deals had been finalized. Also, the bargain that is Dee Gordon has been back on track lately, hitting .312/.318/.385 in his previous 22 games before Monday.

“Hanley’s swinging better, Yasiel’s swinging better, Dee’s getting his hits, Adrian’s been the same all year,” Mattingly told J.P. Hoornstra of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on Sunday. “Our guys know what’s at stake.” 

Right now, that’s a second consecutive NL West title. After this week: the franchise’s first World Series title in 26 years. That is why this team was built the way it was once the Guggenheim Baseball Management group took over ownership from the despised Frank McCourt in 2012.

This was the blueprint. This was what things were supposed to look like, how they were supposed to work. The Dodgers broke payroll records this year to field a team that trotted out expensive superstars at nearly every position. They spent so there would be no real breaks in the lineup for opposing pitchers, and they spent for pitching so that they could still walk away with victories even when the offense wasn’t running at optimal levels.

On that pitching front, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryuthey make a combined $398 millionhave done their jobs. Dan Haren, on the other hand, has been a liability for a good portion of the season, but even the 34-year old veteran has learned to pitch with his declining tools. Over his last nine starts, including Monday, Haren has allowed 14 earned runs in 54 1/3 innings for a 2.32 ERA, making him another guy getting his act together at the right time. His start Monday kicked in a vesting option for 2015 that would pay him $10 million, the same as his salary from this season.

This Dodger club has no excuses. It’s relatively healthyRyu’s status for the postseason is still up in the air—and could gain home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs if things fall right.

And for maybe the first time since Guggenheim got its receipt for the team, everything seems to be moving as planned. All that’s left is another month of production, and this could be the team that breaks the championship dry spell for one of the game’s storied franchises.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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