The Los Angeles Dodgers have seemingly taken back control of the NL West. They now hold a 3.5-game lead over those pesky Arizona Diamondbacks, who have either led the division or stayed close behind all season.
Despite the San Diego Padres' underwhelming start to 2023, many still view them as the biggest threat to the Dodgers in the division. But a 2-8 stretch over their last 10 games has the gap between the two California teams widening to 8.5 games. This is all great news for Dodgers fans, and as we get near the 50-game mark of the regular season, we are starting to see what teams are truly made of.
However, for the Dodgers, the next month of play is when we may discover the most about this team and what the rest of the season holds.
From now until June 25, six of the next 10 series the Dodgers play will be against the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, and Houston Astros. Those are six teams that all have championship aspirations and expect to be playing when October rolls around. If you’re really ambitious and expect the Dodgers to be in the World Series, there's a good chance there will be an NLCS and World Series preview in these six series.
You can argue that the two best teams out of the bunch are the Braves and Rays based on talent and that they lead their very talented divisions. Those also happen to be the next two series for the Dodgers — six games over a seven-day span. To add yet another challenging aspect, those games are all on the road. The Dodgers are 12-10 this year on the road compared to 17-7 at home.
Outside of the Phillies, it will be the first time this season that the Dodgers are meeting with the aforementioned teams. The next month will show us how well the Dodgers can compete with the best of the best, which is why it may be the most important stretch of the entire year for the organization. Yes, the team leads the NL West and has its share of extremely talented players, but it’s not quite the All-Star-like rosters they’ve had in the past. And with inconsistency in both pitching and hitting this year, the Dodgers still have a number of question marks.
One good thing bound to come from this month, regardless of whether it goes well or not, is knowing what it takes or will take to beat these teams. It gears the Dodgers up perfectly for the trade deadline on August 1, about a month after this tough stretch ends. Of course, if everything goes extremely well, the Dodgers, who have a top-tier farm system, can also be more than happy to hang on to top prospects.
Keep a very close eye on this team for the next month because the performance will show fans if the Dodgers can truly contend with the roster constructed as is. Or, at the very least, it will show just how badly they’ll need someone like Shohei Ohtani at the deadline or next offseason.