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Dodgers Start Pivotal Series Against Padres with NL West Title on the Line

Note to self – do not title a blog post “Do the Dodgers Have a Pitching Problem” because then, they really will.

Of course this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. But just after my Thursday column was posted, starting pitcher Walker Buehler was placed back on the IL while he deals with a blister on his pitching hand. Dustin May had to leave the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks after only one inning, as he was hit in the foot with a comeback liner. The Dodgers then had to cobble together the rest of the game for pitching, and they lost 5-2. Saturday night, closer Kenley Jansen had a pretty big collapse on the mound, allowing the Houston Astros to score five runs in the top of the ninth and ultimately win the game.

The Dodgers then also had to employ a bullpen game for the Sunday night game against the Astros. However, they fared much better in that one, winning 8-1. Jansen again made an appearance and was much sharper than his Saturday night performance. He had one strikeout and retired the side in order.

Now, the Dodgers start a critical three-game series against the very hot Padres in San Diego. The Padres have won their last seven games, and are 8-2 over their last 10, winning 20 of their last 25. The lead in the NL West is down to 2.5 games and if the Dodgers get swept, they would find themselves looking up at those Padres.

There is some debate as to whether winning the division in a year with such a different playoff system would still have the benefits it normally might have. No team will be able to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs, as the NLCS and WS will be played in Texas. In the National League, the difference between the bottom four teams could be marginal.

As of right now, if the Dodgers win the division they would play the eighth seed, which would be the Colorado Rockies. If they were the four seed, they would face the five seed in the Miami Marlins. There is a chance that the Rockies could be replaced by the New York Mets, and facing Jacob deGrom would not be fun. Regardless, the Dodgers should be able to handle either opponent they would have to face.

Still, the Dodgers have won the division for the last seven seasons, and they don’t have any thoughts of relinquishing that title anytime soon. The Padres, however, are itching to knock the Dodgers out of the top spot and show that they are back in contention.

I have for sometime thought that the Dodgers still lack that certain something – not drive, per se, but that certain urgency that comes with chasing down a team as opposed to being the one always at the top. Aside from 2018, this is the closest NL West race in 10 years at this point in the season. Perhaps this tough competition is just what they need to get their heads focused on finally putting it all together and being ready for the playoffs.

As he was just used in the doubleheader against the San Diego Giants on Sunday, the Dodgers will not see newly acquired Mike Clevinger. Pitching matchups will be Monday, Dinelson Lamet and Clayton Kershaw. Lament went 5.2 innings against the Dodgers on August 4, allowing two runs, one earned. Tuesday will feature Tony Gonsolin and a pitcher yet to be determined for the Padres. Both pitchers are TBD for the matinee on Wednesday. The Dodgers hope that Dustin May will be able to return to the rotation then.

A fun fact and something to follow – Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatis Jr are tied at 15 home runs a piece, good for the most in the National League.

This will be a good test for the Dodgers, to see how they handle a little pressure on them both within the division and with playoff implications. Monday and Tuesday’s games will be at 6:10 PT, and Wednesday’s game will be at 1:10 PT.

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