Playoff Bound Dodgers Look To Defend N.L. West Crown

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The Dodger offense came through for Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday after the ace had an uncharacteristic tough outing in Chicago. The 14-5 victory gave the Dodgers 88 wins and a 3 1/2 game lead over San Francisco in the West. With a Milwaukee loss to the Pirates on Wednesday night, the Dodgers secured a playoff berth guaranteeing at least a Wild Card spot. There will be a Blue October.

*Magic Number 6*

A Wild Card would almost be a consolation prize to the first-place Dodgers who have been in the top spot in the N.L. West for most of the season. Even though this 2014 team never had that magical winning streak which the 2013 team had, they still have been one of the best teams in the league with a stellar starting rotation, an All-Star laden lineup, comeback player performances from Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon and Josh Beckett, the emergence of Justin Turner, the sophomore sensation that is Yasiel Puig and the maturation of Don Mattingly as manager.

Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.06) vs. Felix Doubront (2-1, 1.50)

Lineup: 

Gordon 2B

Puig CF

Gonzalez 1B

Kemp RF

Ramirez SS

Turner 3B

Van Slyke LF

Butera C

Hernandez P

Things are not perfect for the Dodgers right now by any means. The biggest question mark remains with Hyun-jin Ryu. Ryu, who has pitched a solid second season for the Dodgers, is now going to miss his second consecutive start with a shoulder injury. The biggest factor which will determine the Dodgers fate in the postseason is the health of the Korean southpaw. The Dodgers have gone through one full rotation’s worth of bad starts with Hernandez, Frias, Haren, Greinke and even Kershaw all struggling in their last respective start. Without Ryu in the mix, the Dodgers would then need to turn to Dan Haren as their third starter for the NLDS if they should make it that far.

The Dodgers need Roberto Hernandez to step up to the proverbial plate and have a good start on Saturday morning at Wrigley Field.

Roberto Hernandez needs to step up and have a good start on Saturday for the Dodgers. Photo: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez is 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA in 7 starts since becoming a Dodger. The right-hander has barely been able to pitch past the third inning in each of his last three starts. Last time out in Colorado, Hernandez only lasted 3 2/3 innings after allowing 2 runs on 6 hits. The Dodgers went on to win the game 11-3 anyways, but Hernandez’s rough outing didn’t help their cause. He is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA against the Cubs this season in 2 starts. Hernandez is 1-0 at Wrigley Field with a 3.38 ERA in 1 career start. Starlin Castro and Wellington Castillo have hit homeruns off him in the past.

The Cubs will be sending left-hander Felix Doubront to the mound. The Cubs acquired Doubront from the Red Sox at the trade deadline for a player to be named later. He won his last start against Pittsburgh and pitched 6 shutout innings only allowing 4 hits. Felix has only pitched against the Dodgers once which happened to be his MLB debut on June 18, 2010.  He beat the Dodgers while allowing 5 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits through 5 innings pitched. Only a handful of current Dodgers have faced Doubront before. Hanley Ramirez has a couple of hits against him, and Matt Kemp tripled against the lefty back in 2010.

Prediction: Matt Kemp collects another two base hits at Wrigley Field.

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  • Clinching a playoff berth is awesome, and it’s great to know that the Dodgers will be playing in October. Yet, there are still eight games remaining, and the Dodgers still need to defend their place at the top of the Western division in order to skip the Wild Card game. Home field advantage in the NLDS would be nice, but it is not the most important goal. The Dodgers are a very good road team, so even if they don’t secure home field advantage, it may be more advantageous for them anyways. Nevertheless, the Dodgers should work to clinch the division as soon as possible in order to start strategizing about the postseason. Wouldn’t it be sweet to clinch the division against the Giants during the upcoming homestand?

    Even with the Dodgers’ rotation in limbo with Ryu’s shoulder issues, they still have the best 1-2 combo in all of baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Perhaps my dream of watching Clayton Kershaw pitch in the World Series will finally come true this year. I can only imagine all the beautiful curve balls breaking for strikes during the Fall Classic while Matt Kemp blasts homeruns and Dee Gordon steals like every base…

    It could happen.

    First we have to survive this Roberto Hernandez start.

    Go Blue!

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