LA sports fans who were around for the ‘Showtime’ or Shaq-Kobe Lakers will fondly remember when Chick Hearn put games in the refrigerator. It was his way of calling games before they ended, and he was right 99% of the time.
If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, take a look at this:
The Dodgers have put the hated Giants in the refrigerator. It is not a question of if, but when the Dodgers will officially celebrate their fourth straight division title. Yes, the Dodgers still have a long road trip plus 6 games left vs. San Francisco. But numbers don’t lie. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Dodgers now have a 92.5% chance to win the NL West, and a 99.6% chance to make the playoffs.
Let me break it down for you:
The Dodgers are currently playing the Marlins who were as close as 0.5 games out of the playoffs as recently as August 15. However, Miami is struggling with a lack of organizational depth. This has doomed them to fade late in the season. Yes, they beat a rusty Clayton Kershaw, but with Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda up next, you have to expect this club to win the next two games.
Perhaps the toughest series the Dodgers have left is a three game set at Yankee Stadium. After the Yankees, the Dodgers have three in Arizona, who they own. The club then comes home to play the Giants. Let us not forget that San Francisco has been worst team in baseball since the All-Star break. The Dodgers then face Colorado at Chavez Ravine. The Rockies sport a paltry.441 winning percentage on the road. Colorado is 2-4 at Dodger Stadium this year. Then the Dodgers finish the season on the road against the terrible Padres and the choking Giants. According do Baseball Prospectus, the Dodgers only need to go 8-14 over their final 22 games to eclipse the Giants’ predicted win total and win the division. The lights are out.
Favorable schedule aside, the Dodgers welcomed back Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw looked rusty last night and is being eased back into the mix, expect him to dominate the Giants twice later this month if the race is even remotely close. Like he always does. The team’s 4 game lead is more like a 6 game lead. At worst, Kershaw goes 1-1 versus the Giants, and the Dodgers’ magic number is still cut by two. The eggs are cooling.
The Dodgers’ biggest strength is depth. There is no deeper team in baseball, and especially in the bullpen. The Dodgers are even stronger since rosters have expanded. Dave Roberts’ fully showcased the club’s bullpen dominance in Wednesday’s 3-1 over Arizona. Roberts went with JP Howell, Louis Coleman, Luis Avilan, Jesse Chavez, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, and Kenley Jansen to pitch four scoreless innings and shut the door on the snakes. Even in yesterday’s loss, Roberts was perfectly fine letting Kershaw go three innings, and then turning 7 relievers pitch the rest of the game. Unfortunately, with so many calls to the pen, we might be watching longer games this month, but the tradeoff will be more wins. The butter’s getting hard.
Giants Are Choking
Finally, the Giants are choking. They are the worst team in baseball since the All-Star break. This is astonishing given San Francisco had the best record in baseball heading into the break. Moreover, the Giants have not shown any signs of life. The team lost 3 out of 4 to the Cubs and 2 out of 3 to the Rockies. Even more alarming for the Giants: late game collapses by their awful bullpen is becoming a brutal norm. Just last night, the Giants were taken to extra innings by the pathetic D-Backs, getting ahead in the 10th, blowing it, and later squeaking by for a narrow win. Hardly convincing. Let Giants fans believe that even year magic is still possible. But in truth, the Jell-O’s jigglin’!