September was a month full of celebrations for the Dodgers, who won their ninth National League West title in 10 years on Sept. 13. On Sept. 30, the Dodgers secured home-field advantage through the World Series.
The Dodgers also set a franchise record for wins with 111, surpassing the old mark of 106 while becoming the first club to record 106 or more wins in three consecutive full seasons.
Though the Dodgers have enjoyed a historic year, there’s still work to be done. Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s left for the team down the stretch:
What might the postseason roster look like?
The Dodgers have thrived due to their depth and ability to mix and match, and they’re going to rely on that heavily in October. L.A. was hoping to get a handful of pitchers back from injury, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, the Dodgers have more uncertainty than they’ve had all season.
A lot of the decisions will be made based on health, but let’s try to predict what the roster could look like for the NLDS:
C: Will Smith, Austin Barnes
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Gavin Lux
3B: Justin Turner
SS: Trea Turner
OF: Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, Trayce Thompson
DH: Max Muncy
UTL: Chris Taylor, Miguel Vargas
SP: Julio Urías, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Tony Gonsolin
RP: Evan Phillips, Tommy Kahnle, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, Chris Martin, Caleb Ferguson, Andrew Heaney, Yency Almonte, Craig Kimbrel
This version of the roster leaves off Dustin May, who was placed on the 15-day injured list on Sept. 24. If May is healthy, he’ll likely be on the roster, replacing Kimbrel or one of the other relievers. But we’ll see how May recovers over the next few days before we include him on the roster. Blake Treinen is still unlikely to be ready for the NLDS, but could become available as the postseason progresses.
On the position player side, Taylor’s status is now in question with a neck issue. Taylor believes he’ll be ready for the postseason, but he’ll have to prove it during simulated games this weekend. If he’s not able to go, that opens up a spot for somebody else. If this roster projection is accurate, Hanser Alberto would be the likely replacement.
Who will be the opponent in the Dodgers’ first playoff series?
The Dodgers will play the Padres, who beat the Mets, two games to one, in their Wild Card Series at Citi Field. The Dodgers went 14-5 against San Diego this season. Game 1 of the NLDS will be at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. The Dodgers will host Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, 5 in that best-of-five series.
How’s the Dodgers’ health situation?
• SP Dustin May (low back tightness): May threw two simulated innings on Oct. 5, giving the Dodgers optimism he’ll be ready in time for the NLDS. A big test for May will be how he bounces back from the outing. He’ll get another tuneup during simulated game action over the weekend, which will determine his availability.
• RP Blake Treinen (right shoulder soreness): Treinen faced live hitters on Oct. 5, a significant step in his recovery. The Dodgers will see how Treinen bounces back, which has been an issue for the right-hander during his recovery.
• OF Chris Taylor (neck stiffness): Taylor was scheduled to go through “baseball activities” on Oct. 5, but didn’t take part in early work on the field. Manager Dave Roberts said the expectation was for Taylor to take swings in the batting cage. Taylor will have to prove he’s healthy during the simulated games or his status for the NLDS will be in question.
How will the pitching rotation shape up?
Urías has ascended to ace status and is making a case for the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw has solidified himself as the No. 2 in the rotation. Anderson pitched his way into the No. 3 role, giving the Dodgers three solid options for the postseason. As for the No. 4 starter? Keep reading.
What’s the toughest decision ahead?
For a while it appeared Urías was the easy decision to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers are still talking through their options. The Dodgers could elect to pitch Kershaw in Game 1 with the idea being he would be on full rest for a potential Game 5. If Urías goes in Game 2, he could also pitch on short days’ rest if needed in Game 5. The Dodgers would like to avoid asking Kershaw, who has dealt with multiple back issues this season, to pitch on short rest.
The Dodgers will also need to make some difficult decisions with their bullpen, particularly with Kimbrel. The veteran right-hander was the team’s closer for the majority of the season, but he was taken out of that role in September. With other viable options, Kimbrel could be the odd man out. However, he would be an option if some of the injured pitchers aren’t able to make it back on the field.