While some fans of the Dodgers are viewing the 2018 campaign as a season of redemption, many others anticipate the year to be a continuation of success. It’s hard to believe, but Los Angeles is now in pursuit of its sixth consecutive NL West division crown, and with each passing season, the club inches ever so closer to a World Championship.
This season promises to deliver many different story lines, and we’ll be here every day to bring you the latest coverage. Injuries have already factored into several of the roster decisions. In the eyes of many fans, the starting rotation will be the weakest link; yet, if the big five can find a way to stay healthy for the first half of the year, the club may be in a position to control the division early. The bullpen could take a while to develop, but the amount of talent currently available to the coaching staff may be among the best on the senior circuit. The addition of Matt Kemp strengthens an already potent lineup, even in the absence of the squad’s normal three-hole hitter, Justin Turner. The bats and the length of the lineup will certainly play huge factors in the team’s success all year long.
Regardless, the MLB season is 162 games long, and each game is one small building block to a finished product. Fittingly, the Dodgers host their biggest rivals, the San Francisco Giants, in the 2018 home opening series. The Dodgers seemingly have the advantage on paper; however, the Giants still have enough offensive punch in their lineup to stand tall.
Resident ace Clayton Kershaw brings a 5-0 record and a 0.99 ERA to the table in his Opening Day starts, but what’s even more impressive is that he seems to stretch himself farther each year. Last season against the Padres, he went seven full innings and struck out eight in the club’s 14-3 victory. During 2018 Cactus League play, the three-time Cy Young Award winner held opponents scoreless over 21-1/3 innings of work, proving his readiness for the regular season. But perhaps more importantly, Kersh has a clean bill of health after suffering from back issues at the beginning of last year.
With 27-year-old southpaw Ty Blach on the bump for Frisco, we all have a good idea who will be in the Dodgers’ Opening Day lineup. What we don’t know, however, is how skipper Dave Roberts will structure the batting order. Regardless, Kemp will get the nod in left, accompanied by Chris Taylor in center field and Yasiel Puig in right. Logan Forsythe will man the hot corner, with Corey Seager at short, Enrique Hernandez at the keystone and sophomore sensation Cody Bellinger at first. The catching spot could be a toss-up, though, as there’s a good possibility CK may be in a position to choose his own battery mate for the opener. Regardless, from an offensive perspective, Austin Barnes may be the better option from the right side of the plate.
Though pitching appears to be a potential weakness for the Giants in the early goings of the 2018 season, the offense is still in a position to carry the club on its shoulders. The Big 5 bats of San Fran could be among the best quintets in the NL. Perennial sluggers Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence will spearhead the attack, accompanied by newcomers Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. It almost seems as if the San Francisco lineup was handcrafted specifically to attack a left-handed dominant rotation. Coincidence or no?
Despite everything, the Dodgers wouldn’t want anybody else on the hill for the opener. Although the players have yet to put their respective feet on the gas pedal, the outlook and attitudes are already firmly set in place.
”We understand what our goal is,” Roberts said this week. ”It’s to do whatever we can to win the World Series.”
However, October’s a long way off, and the team we see on the field in March may be completely different from the squad that’s on the field for the stretch run of the regular season. Injuries always play a role, but the club may decide to make numerous upgrades at the summer trade deadlines which has proved to be strategic in the team’s success the past few seasons.
Nonetheless, there’s nobody better suited to prepare the Dodgers for the 162-game journey than Roberts.
”I believe in the guys we have,” Roberts added. ”But there’s a long way to go.”
First pitch is slated for 4:08 p.m., Dodger Stadium time. ESPN has exclusive broadcasting rights to the telecast.