This weekend could ultimately decide the Dodgers’ 2018 season

(Via)

After taking 3-of-4 from the Diamondbacks last weekend and clawing back into first place, the Dodgers dropped 2-of-3 to the hapless Mets (admittedly, facing their two best pitchers) to fall 1 1/2 games behind the … Rockies?

Yes, the Rockies are a game-and-a-half ahead of the Dodgers (and two ahead of the D’backs) as the Dodgers travel to Colorado to start a critical 3-game series with the Rockies tomorrow. I thought last weekend’s series could be a season-deciding series, but it now appears this weekend’s series could be season-deciding.

This is the start of a 10-game road trip that sees the Dodgers head to Cincinnati and St. Louis before returning to Los Angeles. The Reds swept four games from LA back in May and the Cardinals have been the best/hottest team in baseball over the last month (20-8). If the Dodgers drop 2-of-3 over the weekend (usually a best-case scenario for the hellscape known as Coors Field), that puts them 2 1/2 games behind the Rockies with 19 games to play. They get the Rockies for three games in LA from Sept. 17-19, so the Dodgers could still control their own destiny. But like I wrote 3 1/2 weeks ago, it’s getting late. If they get swept, well, that’d be bad (#analysis).

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The Dodgers have spent an inordinate amount of energy getting back into the playoff race. They did so after beginning the season 16-26. They did so after falling 4 1/2 games behind Arizona just a couple weeks ago. How many more times can we expect this team to surge? And the surge hasn’t even been that significant — at least, not like 2013 and last year. While that isn’t a realistic expectation, this team hasn’t been able to sustain success because of a frustrating amount of inconsistency. Be it the rotation, the offense, the bullpen, the defense, the injuries — it has been a maddening season.

Now, they have to summon that energy again in hopes of avoiding a worst-case scenario this weekend. Oh, and they’ll have to do it without Kenley Jansen, who is skipping the Colorado series because the last time he was there, his heart issue cropped up an caused him to miss two weeks. Like Stacie wrote at True Blue LA yesterday, Jansen shouldn’t go — and he isn’t. So, they’ll be short-handed.

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The Dodgers are set to face two of the Rockies’ best starters in Jon Gray (3.59 FIP) and Kyle Freeland (3.77 FIP). Luckily, they’ll miss German Marquez, who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last few weeks. The Dodgers are at least countering with two of their best in Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. But if the bats don’t get going, it won’t matter how well the Dodgers pitch.

Justin Turner is hot now. He just won the National League Player of the Month award. Over the last two weeks, Manny Machado has produced (139 wRC+), as has Enrique Hernandez (154). Matt Kemp (126) has been good, but that’s partially because of his back-to-back game-winning heroics against Arizona. The only other Dodger regular with a wRC+ better than 100 is Cody Bellinger (109), but that comes with no walks and a 31.6 percent strikeout rate.

And then we get to Max Muncy. He seems to be heating up again, as he has a 208 wRC+ over the last couple weeks. Despite that, he’ll likely sit two of the three games (Freeland and Tyler Anderson this weekend) in favor of David Freese because Dave Roberts doesn’t want to start Muncy against lefties. This is despite Muncy being one of the best hitters in baseball against southpaws this season (and the best left-on-left hitter). With Brian Dozier, Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor not hitting enough from the right side, it’s probably time to get Muncy in there against lefties because he probably couldn’t do much worse than them. He has just 16 plate appearances against lefties in the last 30 days.

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The bullpen is a concern as Kenta Maeda hasn’t exactly been the savior most thought he would be. Ryan Madson has struggled in his first few outings as a Dodger. And believe it or not, Pedro Baez — yes, that Pedro Baez — has been one of the best relievers over the last couple weeks. Without Jansen this weekend, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that — if applicable — Baez could get a look at closer.

Yeah.

More likely, the Dodgers will play the matchups, which didn’t work too well the first time Jansen was out, but at least it’s only three games.

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This series against the Rockies could ultimately end up deciding the Dodgers’ fate this season. While it may not be apparent at the time, it could very well end up being the case. They’ll be playing short-handed and have already had to play catch-up multiple times this season. I just wonder how many more times that can be the case. We’ll see what happens. If everyone escapes Coors Field intact, that’d be a win in its own right.

But hey, maybe win a couple games.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.