Well, the closing month of the season is finally upon us and thank goodness we don’t have to play another game at Coors field. I have to say, the road to September this year has been far more exhilarating than any in recent memory.
There have been plenty of bumps, blind spots, and hairpin turns; yet somehow through it all, the Dodgers find themselves sitting atop the National League West standings.
It’s a real shame nearly 75 percent of Angelenos, including myself, have been unable to watch most of the action because of the bogus television contract…but I digress. Today is the day team rosters expand, which likely means the return of the exciting and unpredictable Yasiel Puig (unless he somehow ends up on this mystery team), but it also means we get a clearer glimpse of the future.
The Dodgers had an impressive home stand last week, taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs and that orange team from the bay area. If the series against the Cubs taught us anything, it’s that the Dodgers can hang with the big boys. All three games in the weekend battle either went into extra innings or were decided by one run. Manager Dave Roberts was very pleased with the way the weekend played out.
“To perform well and go toe-to-toe with a team that has been very good all year, it sends a message to our guys, as well as those guys in that clubhouse,” Roberts said after the conclusion of the series.
The Dodgers were fortunate enough to not have to face Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, whom they will inevitably face should the clubs square off again in the post-season. Similarly, the Cubs avoided Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
If Kershaw can return healthy and in his usual form, a rematch between the two teams will definitely be one worth watching. But first, we have to get through September.
September baseball is always an exciting time. Other than one more east coast trip with visits to Miami and New York, the Dodgers square off against familiar west coast foes. They play seven more games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, four more against the Colorado Rockies (thankfully all are at Chavez Ravine), and six a piece against the San Diego Padres and those other guys who play up near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Our boys in blue are a respectable 28-23 versus their division rivals. Unfortunately, the team chasing them is an impressive 32-20 matched up against the same opponents. The other NL west teams would like nothing more than to play the role of spoiler.
The Dodgers are looking to expect the same production they have received all year from Corey Seager, as well as the continued solid second half performances from Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal. The Dodgers’ entrance into October baseball, however, relies on the starting pitching. They recently received quality starting performances from Rich Hill, Julio Urias, and Brock Stewart, and will need to sustain that on their road to the post season. On an extremely bright note, team president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reported Kershaw felt great after pitching a simulated game on Tuesday.
“It was a great step in his progression,” Friedman said after Kershaw threw a two inning simulation. “He felt great after, which is obviously everything he cared about.”
Kershaw’s return to old form will provide the Dodgers with a major advantage heading down the home stretch. His career stats versus the NL west are very impressive (61-26, 2.33), and in 2016 he is a very modest 5-0, 1.56. The likely scenario for the dominant lefty is a rehab start in the minor leagues before taking the major league mound for the first time since late June. His presence should provide an additional spark to a club that has been playing great since he went on the disabled list.
The prediction here is that Kershaw comes back strong and the Dodgers have a solid final month of the season. They will go into their closing series in San Francisco with a three game lead needing just one victory for the division title. We should be in for quite an entertaining finish to the regular season. Here’s hoping they find a way to televise those games.