Since getting no-hit by Jake Arrieta on August 30th, the Dodgers have been on fire – winning eight of nine games – while averaging 4.9 runs per game.
Finally looking like the team many expected them to be all season, the Dodgers are hitting their stride at the right time. Having built an 8.5-game lead in the NL West, Los Angeles has the rare luxury of getting to coast into the postseason.
Home-field advantage in the National League will be going to whoever wins the Central division, meaning the Dodgers can shift their attention to staying healthy come playoff time. With Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick currently on the disabled list, manager Don Mattingly has the tough task of bringing them back into the fold at a time when the Dodgers are clicking on all cylinders.
Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke have played well in Puig’s absence, but the Dodgers sorely need their electric right fielder back. Without the occasional missed cut-off man and obnoxious bat flip, the Dodgers would lack the polarizing character every champion needs.
Second baseman Howie Kendrick has excelled for the Dodgers this season, but his unfortunate hamstring injury made the Dodgers acquiring veteran Chase Utley a necessity. While Utley has been a decent stop-gap, the Dodgers need Kendrick and his middle-of-the-lineup power back if they are to make a deep playoff run.
Despite these two key injuries, much of the Dodgers’ recent surge can be attributed to calling up top prospect Corey Seager. Having only played six games in his young major league career, the future shortstop is batting .381 with a .458 on-base percentage. It’s certainly a small sample size, but Seager has provided the power that the Dodgers have sorely missed from anyone on the left side of the infield not named Justin Turner (I’m only looking at you, Jimmy Rollins).
The other bats on the Dodgers continue to chug along, and their team fielding percentage of .988 currently ranks tied for first in the majors. Defense is not a weakness, as is usually the case with teams created by general manager Andrew Friedman.
Realistically, the Dodgers’ chances of winning their first World Series since 1988 rest heavily on their two Cy Young-worthy aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The two have been nothing short of phenomenal all season, and will need to be just as dominant in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Dodger fans, you have to win more than two games per series to advance, meaning some combination of Alex Wood, Brett Anderson and Mat Latos will be taking the mound in Games 3 and 4. Still, with an assumed 2-0 series lead, the Dodgers have to feel confident that at least one of those pitchers can give them a legitimate chance to win a game.
Two pitching staff aces gives the Dodgers a major advantage, but their biggest nightmare seems inevitable – an NLCS series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It could be now or never for the Dodgers, as Greinke is likely going to opt out and negotiate a new contract after the season. However, if they don’t win it this year, they can always bump their payroll up to $400 million and try again next season.
Photo Credit: Dodger Verse