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The Weekend Takeaway

The Dodgers are sitting on the cusp of their 80th win following a masterful sweep of the Mets this weekend, and you’d need a working time machine to find a team with a better 50-game stretch behind them.

Friday’s series opener shined a spotlight on Yu Darvish, who made his first start with the club after the Rangers dealt him to Los Angeles for a handful of prospects last Monday. Darvish can’t rightfully be described as the Dodgers’ ace with Clayton Kershaw still heading the rotation, and the fact that a pitcher of his caliber is the no. 2 guy on an already-formidable pitching staff is saying something.

He didn’t disappoint in his debut, sparkling through seven scoreless frames after retiring three runners in scoring position and whiffing 10 batters. The strikeouts tied a franchise record for most Ks in a debut performance, a mark last set by left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii in 2002.

By the seventh inning, the Mets looked lifeless. Darvish retired the side with three straight strikeouts, and the rest of the Dodgers celebrated the shutout with a generous helping of run support, pouring on three home runs (and a pair of productive outs) to lock down their first win of the series.

On Saturday, the Dodgers proved their dominance again, this time wielding five home runs in a come-from-behind effort. Seth Lugo’s 4.55 ERA bore the brunt of the damage, taking a pair of dingers from Chris Taylor and rookie slugger Cody Bellinger in the sixth inning, followed by another three from Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager.

While it took the Dodgers a while to warm up, the blasts helped cover a shaky outing from Rich Hill, who surrendered three home runs in the first inning and exited with a three-run deficit in the sixth. Bellinger’s homer, meanwhile, marked his 31st of the year, not only confirming his ability to pulverize off-speed pitches but keeping him on pace to eclipse a 40-homer total by the end of the regular season.

His home run record swelled to 32 dingers with a 447-footer on Sunday evening, when the Dodgers capped their sweep with another shutout and tagged New York lefty Steven Matz (and a beleaguered bullpen) for eight runs.

This time, it was Hyun-Jin Ryu’s moment in the sun. The southpaw generated the best start of his season to date, crafting seven innings of one-hit, eight-strikeout ball that rendered the Dodgers’ eight-run spread almost entirely unnecessary.

Following Sunday’s win, the Dodgers maintained a 43-7 record over their last 50 games. The only club with a better record in that stretch? Fire up your DeLoreans, because no team has performed better since the inimitable 1912 New York Giants stifled the National League competition with their own 43-7 run. Given the Giants’ tumble from grace in the 1912 World Series, however, this is hopefully where those comparisons end.

Quick Hits from the Weekend

Jacob deGrom, bonafide 2017 member of the #PitchersWhoRake club and team leader* in runs and RBI, ticked another box on the list of Standard/Routine Things Made Infinitely More Delightful When Executed by a Pitcher: he swiped his first career stolen base.

Not only that, he swiped the bag against Yu Darvish, briefly interrupting the hurler’s fifth strikeout of the evening:

Nothing came of the extra bag—Asdrubal Cabrera struck out swinging and Jay Bruce’s inning-ending lineout left deGrom stranded—but he joined the Cubs’ Jon Lester as one of two pitchers to procure a stolen base in 2017.

*Among Mets pitchers, and only Mets pitchers.

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Bartolo Colon manufactured a complete-game win Friday, because Bartolo Colon defies age-based classification and the inevitable erosion of athletic skill that usually dogs professional baseball players in their 40s.

Sure, Colon doesn’t carry the resume of, say, a 2004 version of Randy Johnson, but at 44 years and 74 days old, the fact that he can still pitch around the likes of Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus is newsworthy in and of itself. He worked into a jam in the first inning, serving up back-to-back hits and allowing Beltre to collect two runs on a line drive to center field:

Nomar Mazara tacked on another RBI single in the third inning, but any further attempts to rally the Rangers’ offense were effectively quashed. Colon set down five scoreless frames, stranding two runners in scoring position as the Twins provided an eight-run backing. In the ninth, down 8-3 with two outs, Carlos Gomez attempted to bridge the five-run gap with a solo shot …

… and was left hanging after Joe Mauer smothered a Brett Nicholas line drive to end the game.

Not surprisingly, Colon is the oldest pitcher to record a complete-game win since Jamie Moyer’s feat in 2010 and the oldest starter to do so in franchise history.

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Life has been topsy-turvy for Pirates infielder Sean Rodriguez, who was coming off of a career year in Pittsburgh when he signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract to play in Atlanta. Two months later, his plans for the season were derailed when he sustained a torn rotator cuff, biceps injury, and labrum damage following a serious car crash. After months of rehab and an underwhelming 15-game stint with the Braves, he returned to the Bucs on a post-deadline deal on Saturday and punctuated his homecoming with a 12th-inning walk-off blast:

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Speaking of wild finishes this weekend, none was wilder than the Blue Jays’ replay-dependent finale against the Astros on Saturday night.

In the top of the 10th inning, Rob Refsnyder took a four-pitch walk from Francisco Liriano, then nabbed second base while Steve Pearce hacked his way to the second out of the inning. Ryan Goins roped a line drive to left field, sending Refsnyder on a madcap dash to home plate and sliding just under Brian McCann’s glove for the go-ahead run.

The Astros immediately challenged the call at the plate, but a replay review upheld the run after revealing that Refsnyder managed to touch the plate a split second before McCann applied the tag.

The win did little to improve the Blue Jays’ standing in the division or Wild Card rankings, but it still spoiled the Astros’ attempted sweep and gave the AL West leaders their first extra-inning defeat since July 17.

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Guillermo Heredia wasn’t going to let the Royals skate by on his watch, even if it meant tracking a deep fly ball into the padded walls of Kauffman Stadium.

Newly-reacquired starter Erasmo Ramirez had no such qualms, tanking the finale of Sunday’s doubleheader with five innings of five-run, two-strikeout ball. You can turn around and point that finger at the Mariners’ offense, too, who depleted their run production during their 8-7 matinee and had just one run—Danny Espinosa’s second-inning RBI double—left in the tank against rookie right-hander Jake Junis.

Defensive Play of the Weekend

Giovanny Urshela may be a one-trick pony, but his one trick happens to be flawless defensive plays.

While Urshela hooked wayward line drives and runaway ground outs to fend off the surging Indians, this Atlanta fan had an equally noble goal in mind:

What to Watch on Monday

The Royals might be fatigued after cramming a doubleheader into Sunday’s homestand, but they’ll need to capitalize on their interleague matchup against the Cardinals in order to improve a half-game lead in the AL Wild Card standings. Neither Ian Kennedy (4.92 DRA, 113 cFIP) nor Carlos Martinez (3.37 DRA, 92 cFIP) has looked especially sharp lately, and given their 9-1 finish against Seattle on Sunday (not to mention the Cards’ 13-run beatdown in Cincinnati), the two might be due for a battle of the bats rather than a duel of DRAs (8:15 ET).

While the NL Wild Card race isn’t nearly as close, the NL Central is still up for grabs. The Brewers can’t seem to catch the Cubs, no matter how hard they try or how many series they clinch, but they’ll get another chance to reclaim first place on Monday evening. Brent Suter (5.83 DRA, 108 cFIP) is scheduled to face off against the Twins’ Ervin Santana (3.62 DRA, 103 cFIP), who’s coming off of his fifth complete game of the season after dominating the Padres in a two-run, nine-strikeout effort last Wednesday (8:10 ET). The Cubs, on the other hand, should have an easy go of it when they send Jake Arrieta (4.10 DRA, 92 cFIP) up against Matt Moore (7.34 DRA, 106 cFIP) and an inconsistent Giants offense (10:08 ET).