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The Dodgers are division champs ... now what?

@kengurnick
September 11, 2019

The Dodgers have won their seventh consecutive National League West title, but it could be weeks before they know their opponent. What’s next? If they can retain the best record in the league, the Dodgers will face the NL Wild Card Game winner in the NL Division Series. Based on

The Dodgers have won their seventh consecutive National League West title, but it could be weeks before they know their opponent.

What’s next?
If they can retain the best record in the league, the Dodgers will face the NL Wild Card Game winner in the NL Division Series. Based on Tuesday's records, that would mean either the Nationals or the Cubs, with the Brewers, D-backs, Phillies and Mets not far behind. For now, assume the Dodgers play Washington or Chicago.

Shop for new NL West champs gear

2019 MLB postseason schedule

How did they fare against those two teams?
The Dodgers went 4-3 against the Nationals; 2-2 in Los Angeles in May and 2-1 at Washington in July. The Dodgers also went 4-3 against the Cubs; 1-2 in Chicago in April and 3-1 in Los Angeles in June.

What is the NLDS schedule?
Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five NLDS presented by Utz are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3, and Friday, Oct. 4. Game 3 is Sunday, Oct. 6, with Games 4 and 5 (if needed) on Monday, Oct. 7, and Wednesday, Oct. 9.

What do the Dodgers have to play for this month?
Based on the constant tinkering and experimentation since their lead swelled, Dodgers management is more concerned with setting up the best postseason roster than owning home-field advantage. They had home-field advantage in 2017 and lost the World Series anyway.

What’s the status of injured players?
Rich Hill returns to the rotation on Thursday after nearly three months on the IL with a strained left flexor tendon, and Julio Urias is back in the bullpen for now as the leading contender for fourth starter. Max Muncy could return this weekend from a fractured right wrist. Alex Verdugo is doubtful for the NLDS because of a lower back injury that’s lingered since May. Joe Kelly has been dealing with a non-specific leg injury and was held out of five games last week.

How Dodgers' postseason roster may look

Who’s in the starting rotation?
Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but they could be in any order, which the opponent’s lineup might influence. Ryu is slumping and is being skipped this turn through the rotation, Kershaw has a three-game losing streak and Buehler was pushed back two days for extra rest, but threw seven dominant innings in Tuesday's win. If they need a fourth starter, Hill is on the clock to rebuild arm strength after his injury. Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are also on standby.

Biggest question mark?
Specifically, closer Kenley Jansen; generally, the bullpen. It’s Jansen’s worst season and he’s no longer a ninth-inning-only pitcher. But if he’s wobbly going into the postseason, it’s unclear if the job will then go to Kelly or be split up depending on matchups. And Urias is the hybrid, multi-innings lefty.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.