Last night the Dodgers opened up a 16-game stretch against fellow playoff contenders. This part of the schedule will tell us a lot about this Dodger team.
The coming two weeks are going to be competitive for Los Angeles. They are going to be playing against the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and Washington Nationals. Before the Dodgers‘ win against the Cardinals last night, the four teams they will be facing had a combined 97-77 record.
They will face great pitching, great hitting, and athletic teams, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Dodgers respond. If last night’s playoff-like game told us anything, it is that LA will have to grind out a lot of tough games.
Two of the teams (Brewers and Nationals) currently sit in first place in their respective divisions, while the other two have winning records and aren’t too far behind the Dodgers.
Usually, if you have a .500 record against the good and great teams while beating up on the teams you’re supposed to, you have a good chance of making the playoffs. However, the Dodgers have more than just playoff aspirations, and if they want to match them, these are the kind of teams they will have to beat en-route, so this is going to be a great barometer test to see how good the Boys in Blue are, or at least can be.
Los Angeles starts off with the pesky St. Louis Cardinals, the same Cardinals that knocked the Dodgers out of the 2013 and 2014 playoffs. They don’t have a great offense, but the Cardinals have always been known for their pitching. They have the best starting rotation (statistically) in baseball and will throw three of the top-five NL ERAs at the Dodgers.
Seven of LA’s next ten games are against the Red Birds, and beating them is always a grind but a little special. The offense will be heavily tested, and the pitching staff will have to match the terrific Cardinals rotation.
Sandwiched in-between the seven games against St. Louis we have the reigning champion Chicago Cubs coming into town. While their record of 23-21 isn’t great, they are still the Chicago Cubs. They still have one of the most talented rosters in the league and the reigning 2016 NL MVP. They still have a top-10 offense, and while their rotation can stand to improve, their starters have always given the Dodgers problems.
Plus this is the same team that knocked the Dodgers out of the NLCS last season and took two of three against the Dodgers earlier in the season, so these games are always going to be tough.
Then there are the surprise Brewers, arguably the biggest surprise team in the National League thus far with a 25-20 record. The Dodgers will face them on the road after they finish up with their second series with the Cards.
They sit atop a difficult National League Central. They are a young and fearless team that has the third-best offense in the league. We can’t say whether they are for real or not yet, but they are playing some great baseball at the moment. Ten days from now the story may change, but as of now, they are a good team.
To cap off their tough stretch, the Dodgers will return home and welcome the Washington Nationals for a 2016 NLDS rematch. This will be a real test of the Dodger rotation’s capabilities. The Nationals have the second-best record in the National League and the most explosive offense in baseball. They are averaging a league-best 5.8 runs per game and have an excellent team OPS of .827, which also happens to be the highest.
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Their lineup is littered with quality to elite hitters throughout. You have Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, and Michael Wieters making up the muscle of the lineup and their numbers are off the charts.
Don’t forget about their rotation either. They have the reigning CY Young winner in Max Scherzer and other talented arms such as Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, and Gio Gonzalez. If they were to add one or two reliable arms to the bullpen, they’d probably be considered the most complete team in the game.
All facets of the team will be tested, and after this gruesome 16-game stretch, we’ll have a better idea of this team. Personally, I believe that the offense will be tested more than the pitching because I think that a rotation fronted by Clayton Kershaw and a white-hot Alex Wood is legit.
The offense has turned things around recently but personally; I’d like to see just a little more. They were shut down last night and have to learn to hit good pitching if they want to win in the playoffs.
I see LA going 10-6 over the next 16, and anything worse than 8-8 should be considered a disappointment. When you have a talented team, you want to see it rise to the occasion. Will this Los Angeles team prove to us that they belong in the upper echelon of National League teams? Can they compete with playoff and World Series-caliber teams? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.