Winning 2 out of 3 games in a series is generally a result any fan base would be happy with. For the Dodgers, the weekend in Arizona that just transpired marked their 5th consecutive winning series, continuing a September that’s seen them go 16-7. That’s an excellent month of baseball by any measure – and yet as the Dodgers departed Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, most fans felt disappointed by the team’s inability to sweep the Diamondbacks (50-106).
Arizona has been a doormat in the division all season. Heading into the weekend, the Dodgers and Giants each had the same record against the Diamondbacks: 14-2. With each team getting three more opportunities against the Snakes too within their final 9 games (they open a series in San Francisco today), it understandably felt imperative to win all three. Because the Dodgers didn’t, they’ve fallen now 2 games behind the Giants with only 6 games to play – a rather steep hill to climb when relying on Arizona and San Diego to combine for 2 wins at Oracle Park before Sunday.
None of this is to define the Dodgers’ season as a disappointment, by any means. At 100-56, the 2021 Dodgers have already reached a plateau very few Dodgers’ teams ever have – only 3 others (1974, 2017, 2019) have managed to win 100+ games over the course of a 162 game season. In almost any other season, the Dodgers would be running away with the division and comfortably setting their postseason rotation up for an NLDS on their home field. What the Giants have done this season has broken every predictive model you’ll find, and deserves recognition – they’ve performed well at home, on the road, in every month this season, and in virtually any other situational split you could look at.
If the Dodgers are to force a Game 163 with San Francisco or somehow tie them atop the division, they’ll most likely need to sweep both the Padres and Brewers at home this week. While the Padres may have come crashing back down to earth in the standings, I don’t think the talent level or desire to beat the Dodgers in their clubhouse are in question – and the Brewers are just a really good ballclub. That being said, we’ve seen the Dodgers sweep homestands in the past, and even twice this year (April 9-15, over Washington and Colorado, and September 10-15, over San Diego and Arizona). It’s not out of the realm of possibility, and I’d expect the Dodgers will be fighting all hands on deck to assure that outcome until they find out they’re headed to the Wild Card game with certainty. Even if they manage to pull off a 6-0 week, though, they only pose a threat to San Francisco if the Giants lose twice – something I wouldn’t count on whatsoever.
For now, the Dodgers’ marching orders are simple – defeat the team across from them each night. That starts with a three-game series against San Diego.
Tuesday, September 28
7:10 pm PT
Yu Darvish (8-10, 4.21 ERA) vs Walker Buehler (14-4, 2.58 ERA)
What began as a slight downgrade in performance crescendoed into an avalanche that overcame Buehler last week in Colorado. Last Wednesday’s start was his second worst of the season, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits in just 3.2 innings of work. It was the second such start of September for the Dodgers’ young ace, having allowed 6 runs over 3 innings of work on the 3rd to the Giants in San Francisco. He followed that start with an opportunity at home against the Padres as well, and pitched effectively (7 innings, 2 runs) – the Dodgers will be hoping for a similar bounceback on Tuesday night in one of his final tuneups.
The Dodgers will get another look at Yu Darvish for the Padres, now in a position to play spoiler against his former ballclub. The Dodgers struggled against Darvish in early-season opportunities but knocked him around the yard in their only second half opportunity against him. This is particularly important when looking through Darvish’s splits, because he’s been an entirely different entity since MLB’s decision to aggressively crackdown on foreign substances. Darvish is an abysmal 1-7 with a 6.28 ERA since the All-Star break and has struggled all season away from Petco Park (2-6, 5.61). The Padres have looked like a deflated and broken ballclub of late, and it’ll be important that the Dodgers smell blood in the water starting with Yu Darvish on Tuesday night.
Wednesday, September 29
7:10 pm PT
While San Diego hasn’t named any starting pitchers for Tuesday or Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Blake Snell or Joe Musgrove, while Chris Paddack has been shut down for the season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see San Diego give Dinelson Lamet or Ryan Weathers opportunities to get a start in, or call up a prospect or two to give them a taste of pitching at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers will send Max Scherzer to the mound Wednesday, fresh off a start at Coors field that made him look entirely more human than he has at any other point in a Dodgers uniform. Given his track record since joining LA, I’d bet on Max returning to an alien on Wednesday in his final start before a probable Wild Card game against St. Louis.
Thursday, September 20
7:10 pm PT
Thursday, the Dodgers will give Tony Gonsolin the ball for his 13th start of the season. While Gonsolin hasn’t been particularly efficient, he’s consistently given the Dodgers opportunities to win when he takes the mound. He’s walked 2 or more batters in 6 of his last 7 appearances, so a point of emphasis with Gonsolin will be to get ahead of hitters early. With a massive series hosting Milwaukee to follow, the Dodgers would certainly appreciate whatever length he can provide.