Dodgers go big at home

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Photo above: A screen shot of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw striking out San Diego Padres catcher Rene Rivera, one of eight K’s recorded by Kershaw in his league-leading 18th win of the season. He also leads the MLB with an ERA of 1.67. is there any question who the MLB MVP will be this season? Or who will get the N.L. Cy Young Award?
Of course baseball writers can be a crazy bunch, so we’ll wait and see. (YouTube)

Batting practice for the Dodgers. (Claudia Gestro)
Batting practice for the Dodgers.
(Claudia Gestro)

How is the National League West shaping up, now that we have 18 games left in the season? It’s not decided yet and won’t be until the very end of the season and whichever team comes in second will not be assured a wild card spot.

For a while it looked like the Dodgers would be the team with the NL West Champion banner this year, but things can and do change in baseball.

Ten days ago the Dodgers met the Padres in PetCo Park in San Diego for a three game stand and lost the first two games in extra innings. Pitching for both teams was really good in San Diego and the two losses turned on lost opportunities to score runs when the Dodgers had men on base in scoring positions.

The Padres came to Dodger Stadium Monday to start a three-game series and it was like watching a different Dodgers team. The Dodgers scored nine runs and they did it with home runs and timely hitting — they didn’t leave many runners stranded, as they did in San Diego.

Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis all got hits with Uribe and Crawford getting homers off San Diego’s pitching staff.

Facebook meme. But, the Padres scored three runs on Kershaw, one earned, and the Padres managed three hits off Kershaw.
Facebook meme. But, the Padres scored three runs on Kershaw, one earned, and the Padres managed three hits off Kershaw.

Yasiel Puig got his first RBI in 60 at-bats, which says a lot about his team mates’ hitting in the past few weeks. As often as Puig got a hit, there was no one on base to move forward on the pads. Last night was different for the centerfielder.

Clayton Kershaw got his 18th win of the season, leading both leagues so far this season, but he had a scare in the sixth inning when a routine flyball to center resulted in three throwing errors by the Dodgers’ Puig, Ellis and Ramirez, allowing a run to score. Three errors on one play — at least it will make one of ESPN’s highlight reels.

San Diego starter Odrisamer Despaigne had six earned runs in this game. Tough outing for him.

In the series before this in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers swept the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks. And they scored big in the final two games: 5-2 and 7-2. In the final game of that series first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit two three-run homers. It was a big day for the San Diego born Gonzalez.

So it looks like the Dodgers might hold onto their lead in the N.L. West. They are three games over the San Francisco Giants who themselves have won nine of their last 12 games.

Last Friday the Arizona Diamondbacks fired general manager Kevin Towers. In 2013 this was a team that led the N.L. West for a good part of the season, but this year they’ve been at the bottom since April.

The Diamondbacks have a decent team they can build on for next season. Even if they win all of their remaining games, they would still fall short of overtaking the Dodgers or Giants. But it would be impressive.

Maybe playing without a general manager will motivate them to play better and end the season on a winning note. But they face the Giants in a three-game stand on the road, and then again at home in a week. It will be tough to get four wins in those six games. They end their season with a three-game home stand against the St. Louis Cardinals and winning two against the NL Central-leading Cards looks like a stretch.

The Arizona Diamondbacks at The L.A. Dodgers this past weekend. (Claudia Gestro)
The Arizona Diamondbacks at The L.A. Dodgers this past weekend.
(Claudia Gestro)

The best the DBacks can do is be spoilers for the Giants and the Cardinals and possibly change their positions in the playoffs.

And then there are the Cardinals — at the beginning of August they were third in the N.L. Central standings behind the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the last three weeks have been a disaster for the Brewers. They lost 15 of their last 18 games, including a nine-game losing streak. Right now the Brewers are on a three-game skid.

One thing I’ve learned watching Major League Baseball, especially the National League: the St. Louis Cardinals will always find a way. The Brewers are now six games behind the Cards and the Pirates four and a half games back. Things could change in the N.L. Central, but don’t bet on it. Of course it helps when your leading opponent in the division folds in the last weeks of the season.

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One SoCal team I can count on for the playoffs is the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. They are eight games ahead of Oakland now in the A.L. West … Could the A’s catch the Angels? Yes, but the Angels are not likely to fold. They’ve won 11 of their last 14 games and are now on a five-game winning streak.

Do the Oakland A’s really have a shot at winning the division? As my friend likes to say: that’s a rhetorical question.