Dodgers’ Matchup with the Washington Nationals is a Good Early Test

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 18: Los Angeles Dodgers players high-five after a win over the San Diego Padres 13-4 in a baseball game at PETCO Park on April 18, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 18: Los Angeles Dodgers players high-five after a win over the San Diego Padres 13-4 in a baseball game at PETCO Park on April 18, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

The Dodgers head into their biggest series of the young season which will serve as a potential playoff preview. Even if it’s April, the series will show us if Los Angeles is indeed back.

The weekend is going to be exciting. First, we are treated to a duel between the two best pitchers in baseball under the Friday night lights. Then Dodger fans get to see the exciting Stephen Strasburg take the mound for the Nats on Saturday while the Dodgers counter with an underrated Hyun-Jin Ryu who is at the top of his game.

And while Sunday’s game may not have the exciting pitching matchup, it will be nationally televised on Sunday Night Baseball. Los Angeles will face two of the game’s elite arms, but while the Dodger hitters may not be excited, the fans are because they do not get to see Scherzer and Strasburg that often.

But let’s not forget that we will get to see some of the game’s best bats as well: Bryce Harper and, to a lesser degree, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner. The last two may not be household names, but they are stars in the baseball community.

Harper is off to his usual hot start…and then some. He is on a mission to earn the largest contract in, potentially, sports history. And he will definitely want to put on a show in Hollywood, possibly his home next season.

Do not let the combined 17-19 record fool you; these are two of the best rosters in the sport. The weekend is going to be filled with great pitching, hitting, and defense. And that is why the series is going to be important to win.

It is only April, but matchups with out-of-division opponents, especially ones that you may face in October are unique and intense with a playoff-like atmosphere. They are always a good test to see how you are currently playing and how you match up with your most prominent roadblocks.

The Dodgers started off slow, but are winners of four straight, prompting a lot of people to claim that ‘they are back.’ The offense was the biggest reason for LA’s slow start, but during the winning streak, the boys in blue have scored 37 runs while allowing just 12 runs.

Cody Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal, and Matt Kemp have continued their strong starts to the season, while Corey Seager and Kike Hernandez seem to be finding their groove. And the overall approach to each plate appearance has been drastically better than the previous 13 games. The last four days have been just what the doctor ordered.

But, while a four-game winning streak is always welcome, three of the wins came at the expense of a bad Padres team. Yes, you can only beat who play, but that does not mean you cannot want to see more before you judge.

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The offense came alive against a terrible starting pitching staff, and for most of the series, could not touch San Diego’s bullpen. Anyone can hit off lousy pitching; it is how you fare against the upper-echelon that will determine just how good you are.

They will face elite arms Friday and Saturday; the pitching that you have to hit off of to win in October. This will be an excellent test to see just how good the offense is right now, and how good it can be.

Last year’s offense was symbolized by quality at-bats and passing the baton every time up, even against the good pitchers. If Los Angeles does not put together good at-bats, and Washington’s top two guys toy with the Dodger hitters like they did last year, then maybe the hot streak is an illusion.

If they cannot do something close to what they have done the last four games, then maybe it shows how bad the Padres actually are. Ditto for the pitching as this will be a big test for both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood. Simply put, the next three games will help legitimize the Dodgers’ success from this past week.

This series is notable because it is a barometer test and confidence booster. Winning will elevate the team’s confidence, let the players know that they are indeed out of their early-season slump and that they can have success against the league’s best.

Next: Patience is paying off for the Dodgers

Playing a playoff team like the Nationals is always fun, but also a test of how good your team is at the moment, and just how good they can be. Having a disappointing series may show that the Dodgers are not yet back. But, if they can come away with a  series win with quality pitching and demonstrating the capability of hitting elite pitching, then the hot streak will be a sign of things to come.