Dodgers vs Nationals: A Series With the Biggest Implications

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Daniel Murphy
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Daniel Murphy /

The Dodgers most important series of the season starts today in the nation’s capital. So many different factors ride on this series. This trip to the East coast will give us a clearer outlook at how and who the Dodgers will play in the playoffs.

The Dodgers start a 3-game series against the Washington Nationals today. In this series opener, Alex Wood will toe the rubber with former Dodger Edwin Jackson for the NL East Champion Nationals. In his last two starts, Wood gave up a combined 9 runs in 11 innings of work. But nobody was pitching well during that stretch. Expect Wood to come out strong behind dominant performances by Kershaw and Darvish.

Game 1 of this series is vital to the Dodgers. They will be facing the weak link of this Nationals rotation, Edwin Jackson. The journeyman has pitched for six teams over the last three seasons. He has a 4.14 ERA this season and has not looked good in his recent starts. The Dodgers offense should thrash him and be able to come away a win the first game.

They should win the first game, but if they don’t, they could be in jeopardy of getting swept. This is because they will be facing a red-hot Stephen Strasburg who has had four consecutive shutout outings in the second game of the series. The Dodgers will counter with Rich Hill in game 2, who has been good as of late but not on the same level that Strasburg has been. Game 2 will be tough for Los Angeles.

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But perhaps the toughest matchup will come on Sunday. The third game of the series the Dodgers will be facing off against Gio Gonzalez. The left-hander has had a bounce-back season. But the one thing with Gonzalez is that he’s really volatile. He can go out and throw shutout innings like he did two starts ago or he can come out and look off like he did in his last start and give five runs.

Hopefully, the Dodgers get him on an off night. If they don’t, they will have to win in a dogfight. They will need their starting pitcher to step up. As of right now, that starter is Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Korean is fighting for a playoff spot, so these late starts are very important for him. He understands that, and hopefully, he can step up and outduel his fellow southpaw.

The Dodgers once looked like they were going to stroll into the playoffs with the best record in baseball and have home-field advantage. But after their recent stretch, two teams, in particular, are breathing down their necks for that spot. While the Dodgers struggled, the Indians and Nationals have crept into position to overtake them for the best record in baseball.

This series is very important for positioning in the playoffs. The Nationals are five games behind the Dodgers. If the Dodgers sweep, they could be in a very, very good spot to clinch the number 1seed in the NL. Even if they come out with a series win, they will be in a good spot considering they face relatively soft opponents to close out the series. A series loss is not as bad as it may seem because as long as they win one game, the Nationals can only gain one game on them and the Dodgers will still be four games up. But if they get swept the Nats will pull within two games.

A series loss is not bad in the NL playoff picture, but in the overall playoff picture, it could hurt. The Indians are as hot as a team can be right now. They have won 22 consecutive games and are just 3.5 games behind the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The Dodgers need to get back to their winning ways if they want to keep the Indians behind them for the best record.

This season the best record in the MLB actually matters. The All-Star game did not decide home-field advantage for the World Series like it had since 2003. So whoever has the best record in the MLB gets home-field advantage regardless of what happens in the All-Star game. So keeping the best record in the baseball becomes even more important this season than in seasons past.

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Aside from playoff position this series could do a lot for the Dodgers psyche. If the Dodgers manage to beat the Nats number 2 and 3 starters with their 4 and 5 starters it could help build their confidence if they meet in October. But if they get dominated by Gonzalez and Strasburg it could only push the team over the edge. Knowing all that’s at stake this upcoming series this is definitely the most important series thus far in the season.