How the Los Angeles Dodgers Win the West
We have finally reached one of the most exciting times of the year: September baseball. A month that determines which teams will emerge and make a push for the World Series, and which teams will falter, coming up a game short of making the playoffs. From the moment the final pitch of the Fall Classic is thrown the year prior, baseball fans everywhere anxiously wait 10 months for these final 30 days.
With 29 games remaining, The Los Angeles Dodgers hold a two-game lead in the National League West. Here is is how they will go on to win the division.
Corey Seager continues to run away with the Rookie of the Year (ROY) and makes a strong case for the Most Valuable Player (MVP). The rookie shortstop is batting .315 with a .907 OPS. His 5.4 WAR puts him second in the league behind only Kris Bryant of The Chicago Cubs. At 22 years old, he is not only a leader in the clubhouse, but he will become the Dodgers first ROY winner since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.
Clayton Kershaw will make a rehab start this weekend in Rancho Cucamonga. Barring any setback, he could return to the team by next week and make his first start since June 26. Having Kershaw back is obviously a huge win for a pitching staff that is depleted by injuries, and a bullpen that has thrown the most innings of any pen this season. Even though the team has been playing well without Kershaw, his presence on the mound helps elevate the team to the next level.
All the injuries to the Dodgers’ starting pitchers has forced the bullpen to labor through 475.2 innings. Even so, their combined 3.41 ERA is still the third best in the National League. At this point in the season, starting pitchers need to step up and go deeper into games to alleviate some of the stress placed on the pen. It’s not feasible to expect the bullpen to work four , five or even six innings each night on minimal rest. For relievers to be effective they need an occasional night off. Those nights off will help the Dodgers win more games as we enter the home stretch of the season.
Of the Dodgers 29 regular season games remaining, 17 of them are against division opponents that are under .500: The San Diego Padres, The Arizona Diamondbacks, and The Colorado Rockies. They have played those teams a combined 23-17 (.575) this season.
However, the most important factors to them winning the division are their six games remaining against The San Francisco Giants. The two teams will meet in Los Angeles for the three-game series September 19-21, and end the season up in San Francisco September 30-October 2. The Giants have a slight edge over the Dodgers this season, winning seven of the 13 games, but the Dodgers took the last series, garnering wins over both Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. If the Dodgers are able to, at the very least, split these six games, it will hold the Giants from gaining any ground.
The push for October baseball begins now. With the Dodgers hosting the Padres this weekend and the Giants playing on the road against the Cubs, the Dodgers have a great opportunity to extend their division lead.
And who knows, maybe it will make those six encounters with the Giants that much less important.