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With the all-star break in the rearview mirror, it’s time for second half of the MLB season to get underway. Here are the story lines that will shape the rest of the season.
USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles has a lot to smile about. The Dodgers are not just the hottest team in baseball but on a breakneck pace that could put the 2017 club among the greatest in their rich franchise history.

At 64-29 following a sweep of the Miami Marlins, the Dodgers have a .688 winning percentage – best in franchise history. They’re on pace to better the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, who finished 105-49 (.682) before losing to the New York Yankees in a six-game World Series.

Perhaps more remarkable than anything, though, is the Dodgers’ current 29-4 run dating to June 6.

When the Dodgers lost to the Washington Nationals on June 6, they trailed the Colorado Rockies by two games and were tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Entering Tuesday’s games, they enjoy a 10 ½-game lead over the Diamondbacks, and 11 ½ over the Rockies.

And since there are plenty of ways to quantify a stretch like that, here are five factors in the Dodgers’ dominance:

The pitching staff 

Somehow, the Dodgers managed to improve what was the best pitching staff in the majors by doing nothing. Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw, and the hurlers around him are only getting better.

Take right-hander Kenta Maeda. Prior to the inception of the streak, Maeda registered a 5.16 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. But in the 25 2/3 innings that he has pitched since June 9, the Dodgers hurler posted a 2.81 ERA while walking just four.

Meanwhile, Alex Wood’s dominance has endured.

Frankly, not much has changed for the 26-year-old left-hander since the Dodgers’ run has started. His 1.69 ERA before June 6 isn’t much worse than the 1.40 ERA he has posted after the same date.

But Wood still has yet to lose a game in 14 starts, and given his work so far, he may have a legitimate chance to break Phil Regan’s record for the highest single-season win percentage in franchise history (14-1, a .933 mark, in 1966).

In theory, Wood is merely the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter. That must be nice.

Justin Turner 

After straining his right hamstring in late May, Turner returned from the disabled list on June 9 – just two days after this string of Dodgers dominance began. Since his return, the third baseman is batting .367 with a 1.202 OPS, 10 home runs and 22 RBI.

Correlation? Probably.

Corey Seager

Through 58 games, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year wasn’t necessarily living up to his title. Seager posted a .275 batting average and .822 OPS, with seven homers and just 24 RBI.

In the 33 games since June 6, though, Seager is batting .340 with an OPS of 1.051 – all while doubling his home run total and notching 22 RBI.

Gallery: MLB photo of the day

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Yasiel Puig

The power-hitting right-fielder’s 18 home runs are just one shy of his career best – nine of them coming in just the last 31 games.

As if the Dodgers needed more power.

Cody Bellinger

The Dodgers rookie hit for the cycle against the Marlins on Saturday night, only the latest bullet point in a startling season that didn’t begin for him until April 25.

His season has been just as remarkable as the stranglehold that his team has put on the NL West. Still, it’s worth acknowledging that the Dodgers rookie has hit 14 of his 26 homers and recorded 30 of his 61 RBI in this 33-game span.

The Rookie of the Year trophy is going to Los Angeles again, and at this rate, the World Series trophy may make it there too.

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