Welcome to September, Dodger fans. The dog days of summer are over, and the pennant race is on. After a year of ups, downs, Yasiel Puig demotions, and Yasiel Puig promotions, the Dodgers find themselves in a dogfight with the Giants.
In truth, September looks to be one of the hardest months of the for the club. After this home stand, the Dodgers will embark on a massive 10 game, 6,000 mile road trip with zero rest days. The team will then play the Giants six times in their last 13 games, closing out the season in San Francisco.
If there is anything that the Dodgers have proven this season, it is their scrappy resilience. In the words of LA’s famous Vic ‘The Brick’ Jacobs, the Dodgers have bent but have not broken like bamboo stalks. But the postseason is no guarantee. Aside from the hard September schedule, and the fact that the Giants are right on the Dodgers’ heels, the wild card race is heating up. Second place in the NL West might not be good enough to secure a wild card place.
DO NOT BREAK…
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH Y’ALL..
— VIC THE BRICK JACOBS (@vicfeelingyou) September 1, 2016
Although the Dodgers have made it this far, this past week in Colorado has shown that the Dodgers are still vulnerable. Ultimately, too many questions abound. Has this Dodger pitching staff been punching above their weight this whole time? Why can’t this offense hit left-handed pitching? Will injuries finally catch up to this team? Here are three keys that will guarantee the Dodgers a fourth consecutive division championship.
- September Call-Ups: Depth is the most important reason why the Dodgers entered September in first place. The 40-man roster expansion plays directly into the hands of the club. For over two months now, the Dodgers have been reliant upon a makeshift starting rotation, and heavy use of the bullpen. The front office has done a good job at shuffling the 25 man roster, even demoting Kenta Maeda to A ball for a day to add more depth. Indeed, the Dodgers have already called up relievers Luis Avilan, Louis Coleman, and Josh Ravin. Expect Pedro Baez to be back once the AA season is over. A deep pitching staff is the answer to average-at-best starting pitching from the likes of Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, and Bud Norris.
- Andrew Toles: “Andrew is a beautiful human being”, praised Dave Roberts after Toles hit his game winning grand slam in Colorado on Wednesday. Toles has been red hot, and he is playing like a five tool superstar. In truth, the league will eventually adjust to Toles, and Toles will have to make counter adjustment. But that probably won’t happen until next season. The September schedule sets up nicely for Toles anyways. The Dodgers play the Marlins and the Yankees–teams that are not familiar with Toles. When the club returns west for the home stretch, NL West teams will probably not have adjusted to Toles either. Dave Roberts must play the hot hand throughout September.
- Clayton Kershaw: All indications suggest that Clayton Kershaw will return to the team for the home stretch. The Dodgers need Kershaw like no other. Kershaw is everything you want a pitcher to be. But above all, he is a Giant killer. Just last year, Kershaw struck out 15 Giants in a complete game victory in the first week of September. Kershaw followed that masterpiece up with a 1 hit shut out to clinch the division in San Francisco at the end of the month. It is nothing short of a miracle that the Dodgers, with their depleted rotation, are still in first place. If the team does not get Kershaw back in September, don’t expect this team to make it to October. And if they do, it could be another short post season. If Kershaw indeed returns, then all bets are off. This could be the year they win it all.