Sarah's Take: Little stands in Dodgers' way
With 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a three-game edge over the San Francisco Giants in the race for the National League West title. During this period, the only team the Dodgers face with a winning record is the Giants.
To deprive the Dodgers of winning a second straight NL West title, the Giants will need to win almost every game, while the Dodgers would need to lose the majority of theirs.
On Friday night, when the Giants had a blowout, the Dodgers had a significant scare about Hyun-Jin Ryu. After allowing an uncustomary four runs in the first inning, a shoulder issue forced Ryu to leave the game. Initially, it was diagnosed as shoulder irritation, but Ryu said that it felt like the injury he had in April that caused him to miss a month.
The Dodgers sent Ryu to see the team's orthopedist and have an MRI, which revealed no structural damage but inflammation in the shoulder, so Ryu received a cortisone injection. He is expected to miss one start.
Since the Dodgers don't have depth in the starting rotation, the news about Ryu is terrific. The Dodgers learned Chad Billingsley needed another elbow surgery making him unable to return this season, and Paul Maholm tore his ACL and won't be back this season, either. Josh Beckett is lost for the season with a hip injury.
General manager Ned Colletti didn't want to pay high prices for good starters at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the injuries to Maholm and Beckett left Colletti no choice but to obtain a starter. The Dodgers claimed both Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia off waivers, in exchange for mostly cash considerations. Neither has performed the way that the Dodgers envisioned.
Going into the playoffs, the Dodgers have three reliable starters: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Ryu, who presumably will be healthy for the playoffs. Kershaw just earned another NL Pitcher of the Week Award in a dominating season, and he is en route to his third NL Cy Young Award in four years.
Greinke is not getting as much media attention as Kershaw, but he has pitched well throughout the season. Greinke has been in the starting rotation for the entire year, avoiding the disabled list. He gives the Dodgers a quality start 90 percent of the time.
Even though Dan Haren has been in the starting rotation for the entire season, his kind of pitching doesn't instill confidence. Almost 34 years old, Haren has lost most of his velocity, making him rely on his near-perfect control and changing speeds effectively to baffle the opposition. Thus, when he leaves a pitch up in the strike zone, the opposition hammers a home run.
During the Giants series last weekend, Yasiel Puig came out of a month-long slump. For some reason, his bat appeared slow. Although Puig has lost his home run power, his ability to hit for a high batting average will help the Dodgers more during the playoffs than hitting a few home runs.
Matt Kemp continued his torrid hitting against the Giants. Since Mattingly moved him to right field, Kemp has come alive offensively. He now has 21 home runs. The Dodgers need Kemp to perform well throughout the postseason instead of beginning verbal fights with teammates.
Adrian Gonzalez leads the NL in RBIs. Although no one talks about Gonzalez for the NL MVP Award, he should be considered. He has been a constant offensive producer even though his batting average is lower than normal, and the Dodgers don't want to think where they would be without the contributions from Gonzalez.
Hanley Ramirez has been playing great since coming off the disabled list, but he now may miss a few games because he has an elbow strain.
Nothing is for certain in baseball, but the Dodgers look destined to go to the playoffs if they continue dominating their opposition.