No small-sample problems (yet) for dominant Dodgers

Even in this shortened season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have stood out with their dominance.

And Clayton Kershaw is still a big part of it.

Kershaw has won his last three starts, allowing just two runs in that span. For the season, the 32-year-old left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA. He’s struck out 33 batters with just four walks.

Kershaw pitched like that while winning three Cy Young Awards from 2011-14, but he declined ever so slightly the last couple seasons. His 3.03 ERA last year was his worst since his rookie season of 2008, for example.

He began this season battling a back issue that caused him to miss his customary opening day start, and with the schedule shortened to 60 games, even a talented team like the Dodgers was vulnerable to the vagaries of a small sample size. But Los Angeles can start making postseason plans after a 26-10 start that has the Dodgers five games up in the NL West.

Los Angeles has a run differential of plus-90 — the Chicago White Sox have the next-best mark at plus-42 — and the Dodgers just set a National League record for home runs in a month with 57 in August. Mookie Betts entered Sunday’s action ranked second in the majors in wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Los Angeles has not lost a series all season.

Of course, the series that matter won’t come until later. The expanded postseason this year has been a nice safety net for some other highly regarded teams. The Yankees and Astros have had some issues but are still in good shape, and even the last-place Nationals aren’t out of contention by any means.

But for the Dodgers, the extra teams in the postseason just represent more potential pitfalls for a Los Angeles team that has done just about everything in recent years except win it all.

ON THE RISE?

The AL Central has taken its lumps lately — last year, the division had two teams lose at least 103 games. But right now there’s an intriguing three-way race developing at the top, with Chicago (21-13) and Cleveland (21-13) narrowly ahead of Minnesota (20-15). Even Detroit (16-16) has made it back to .500 after a nine-game losing streak earlier in the month.

The AL Central has gotten the better of its interleague partner. Four of the five NL Central teams are under .500.

TRIVIA TIME

Miguel Cabrera reached a milestone Sunday with his 2,000th hit as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He even came out for a curtain call in front of the empty seats at Comerica Park.

Cabrera has the most hits with his current team of any active player in baseball.

Who is second on that list?

HIGHLIGHT

The St. Louis Cardinals turned a bizarre 3-2-8 double play against Cleveland on Friday night. With men on first and third, Francisco Lindor hit a groundball to Paul Goldschmidt, who threw home to Yadier Molina.

Molina ran baserunner Cesar Hernandez back toward third and eventually tagged him out. Jose Ramirez, the original runner on first, had come all the away around toward third but didn’t make it far enough and got trapped between second and third. So Molina ran him back toward second and eventually threw to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who had come in to cover second. Carlson applied the tag on Ramirez.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Lucas Giolito of the White Sox threw the season’s first no-hitter Tuesday, blanking Pittsburgh 4-0. He struck out 13 with one walk.

It was the 19th no-hitter in White Sox history. Only the Dodgers (23) have more.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Molina isn’t far behind Cabrera. He has 1,982 hits, all with the Cardinals.

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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