The Dodgers survived a twelve inning affair with the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. Their next six games may be their toughest stretch left this season.
On Friday the Dodgers will begin a three-game road trip with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are part of the highly competitive AL West that features three potential playoff teams. While the Dodgers will not face James Paxton this series, they will face three more left-handed starters which have been a struggle for the Dodgers’ offense lately.
Against left-handed pitching, the Dodgers are putting up an OPS below .700 and only 40 of their 164 home runs have come against left-handed pitching. While the Mariners’ bullpen as a whole is middle of the pack, they feature star closer Edwin Diaz who has converted 47 of his 50 save opportunities this season.
After three critical games on the road against the Mariners, the Dodgers will return home for a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals always give the Dodgers a hard time no matter how good both teams are, and the Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball lately going 12-3 in the month of August so far.
On top of being one of the hottest teams in baseball, the Cardinals also have Dodger killer Matt Carpenter who is having an MVP caliber season with thirty-three home runs so far this season. The Cardinals always seem to get the better of the Dodgers and this is something the Dodgers need to change to keep pace with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Why is this six-game stretch so critical to the Dodgers hopes of winning the NL West yet again? While the Dodgers are playing the Mariners the Diamondbacks will be playing the doormat San Diego Padres. Should the Dodgers lose the series to the Mariners, they will six their two-game deficit grow to four or five games unless the Dbacks drop a game or two to the Padres which is unlikely.
While the Dodgers host the Cardinals the Angels will be playing the Diamondbacks. While the Angels are better than the average National League team, they are still a flawed team and they will be playing without the designated hitter in Arizona which benefits the Diamondbacks. Given how hot the Cardinals have been combined with the fact they always give the Dodgers headaches, this is going to be a very tough series for the Dodgers.
Making the next six games even tougher is the fact that Kenley Jansen will not be cleared until Monday at the earliest. Even if he is cleared the Dodgers might send him on a brief rehab stint before activating him. That makes it very likely that the Dodgers will not have Jansen until the end of these next six games.
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This next six-game stretch is arguably the Dodgers’ toughest part of their schedule left. In September the Dodgers play three last-place teams in the Mets, Reds, and Padres for nine of their September games. That will lighten their September strength of schedule and sandwich some “easier” games in between their battles with the Rockies, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks.
Should the Dodgers win both series against the Mariners and Cardinals that should at worst keep them where they are now at two games back of first in the National League West. Given the strength of the Dodgers’ September schedule compared to the Diamondbacks’ schedule, the Dodgers have a far easier schedule left.
All the Dodgers have to do is find a way to win these next two series with a struggling offense and bullpen and the NL West would suddenly look way more winnable. Should the Dodgers scuffle for the next six games then they would potentially put themselves in a big division hole.