After the Dodgers lead dwindled down to 1.5 games at the beginning of the week, it is now back up to a full four games. The magic number for an eighth consecutive National League West Division title is down to five with only nine games to play. On Wednesday, the Dodgers became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. The season has breezed by as we all expected a 60-game season to be. As we enter the final week of the season, it would have been exciting to watch this Dodger team over a full 162-game season. But, at least the front office secured Mookie Betts for the next dozen years, which I’d believe 99 percent of Dodger fans would be content with.
In what is a very crucial series, the Dodgers saw their lead diminish to only 1.5 games ahead of the red-hot San Diego Padres after the first game. All seemed well when the Dodgers were leading 1-0, but then came the 7th inning and the Padres just mounted it on for a 7-2 victory.
To the shock of many Dodger fans, Ross Stripling, a fan favorite, was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the August 31st deadline. The deal wasn’t announced until nearly an hour after the deadline. In return, the Dodgers received the 11th ranked prospect in the Blue Jays farm system, right-handed pitcher Kendall Williams. Getting Williams is a nice return, but he can’t help the current ballclub, who is in win-now mode, especially as the postseason approaches. While Stripling was struggling at times, he could have provided support down the stretch in case of an emergency.
With only a couple weeks left in the season, the playoff push is coming down to the stretch. The Dodgers are in a great position with a 30-12 record and dibs on the top National League seed, despite dropping their first series this past weekend against the Colorado Rockies with former Dodger Matt Kemp hitting a game-winning homer.
Clayton Kershaw continues on his dominant run this season, as the future Hall of Famer became the third-youngest to 2,500 strikeouts. He also passed Christy Mathewson for 38th on the MLB’s all-time strikeout list. Kershaw didn’t allow a hit until the 6th inning on an infield single, striking out eight batters while bringing his ERA down to 1.50, which is second-best in the National League after Yu Darvish.
The trade deadline has come and passed, coming at the end of August this year due to the shortened 60-game season. The Dodgers, who usually are big noisemakers at the deadline, didn’t make any big splashes. The only move done was trading away Ross Stripling to the Toronto Blue Jays for two players to be named later who are not in the 60-man player pool. The deal was announced nearly after the trade deadline concluded.
The Dodgers will prepare for their first matchup against the Texas Rangers Friday afternoon. The opening game is played on Jackie Robinson day, which will be celebrated throughout the league. Jackie Robinson Day falls after days of boycotting throughout professional sports leagues due to protests of unarmed Black people being shot by police, including the Dodgers who agreed with the Giants not to play Wednesday night.
We are now in the second half of the season. Through exactly 30 games this year, the Dodgers stand with the best record in the league at 22-8. With the August 31st trade deadline rapidly approaching, teams will look to add their final pieces to their World Series puzzles. Teams will be reluctant to trade their prized prospects for perhaps only a 30 game rental of a top player. The Dodgers have made several big moves through the past couple of seasons, but it will be interesting to see if Andrew Friedman and the front office will make a splash this year.
The biggest change in Kershaw’s pitching has been his increased velocity this season. His velocity jumped up an average of 1.5 mph from last season. He received run support early and it was all he needed, a couple of RBI from Matt Beaty, AJ Pollock, and Cody Bellinger sparked a four-run third inning.
With Kershaw going seven strong innings, it gave the bullpen a breather after it had to eat up more than seven innings the previous day after a Julio Urias 1.2 inning start. Kershaw has allowed only five hits in his last two starts and just two runs, both courtesy of the long ball. Home runs given up by Kershaw have increased through the past seasons, but his start to this year has still been exciting to watch.
Now in his age 32 season, and after a back injury postponed his debut, Kershaw has put up a 3-1 record with a 2.25 ERA. He also leads the team in strikeouts this season with 29 and is second in innings pitched just behind Ross Stripling with 24. Kershaw has probably been the best full-time starter at this point. There is also Tony Gonsolin, who has been amazing and hasn’t even allowed a run in three starts this year. However, Gonsolin has been up and down with the team and was optioned recently to recall left-hander Victor Gonzalez. Gonsolin will probably be back with the team to make another start at some point and continue his strong case for a playoff roster spot.
With the Dodgers taking three games out of a four-game series from the Mariners, they now sit at 19-8 and have the best winning percentage in the majors at .701. They also continue to add on the best-run differential in the league which now sits at +66. Los Angeles is four games clear of the Padres, who are in second place now. Four out of the five teams in the NL West have winning records with the Giants being the only exception.
Nearly halfway through the season (yes, you read that halfway through the season), the Dodgers sit with the best record in baseball. Friday night will be the opening game of a home three-game series with the Colorado Rockies, the first series between the two clubs this year. The Rockies through the first couple weeks of the season seemed to be the hottest team in the league, as Charlie Blackmon was batting .500 at one point. Since then, the Rockies have cooled down, currently sitting in third place in the division, five games out of first.
Buehler, who has had a rough start to the season after joining the team late in Summer Camp, hopes to swing some momentum his way. He allowed five runs in his last start against the Angels in 4.2 innings. His ERA stands at 5.21 and he hasn’t factored in any decision as his record is still 0-0.
The probable pitching matchup on Friday pits Buehler against right-hander Jon Gray. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Pacific.
Throughout the season, Los Angeles Dodgers offense has been raising concerns about extended slumps during this shortened season. On Thursday night, though, the bats exploded for 11 runs to remain undefeated in series play this year and split a four-game set with the Padres.