Do you hear that? Shhh! Listen closely!
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That choking sound coming out of Phoenix is the sound of the Arizona Diamondbacks realizing their 2013 baseball season is all but over.
Oh sure, I know there are still 41 games left to play. I also remember recent collapses by the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox that cost those teams what once had been certain playoff appearances.
But these aren’t your daddy’s Los Angeles Dodgers!
The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball, and it hasn’t simply been a torrid two or three-week tear. The Dodgers have been terrorizing opponents at a 41-8 clip for the past seven weeks. Does that mean that I think the Dodgers will finish the season on another other-worldly run?
Probably not, but guess what? The Dodgers don’t have to!
After the Diamondbacks walked-off at will and swept the Baltimore Orioles in a recent series, Arizona was on top of the world. Care to take a stab at how many games the Snakes gained on the Dodgers after that thrilling series? Zip! Zilch! Nada!
All the Dodgers have done is to win nine-straight games to build an 8.5-game lead over Arizona in the NL West. Los Angeles has such a comfortable cushion over the Diamondbacks that even a very disappointing finish to the season will still most likely bring a division title to La-La Land.
Even if the Dodgers go into an unexpected tailspin over the final 41 games of the season and finish 20-21, the Diamondbacks have an unenviable task ahead. Arizona will have to play to a 29-12 mark over that same span in order to overtake the Dodgers.
What if the Dodgers still have some sort of fall-off from their current pace and finish 25-16? The Diamondbacks would then have to go an improbable 34-7 in order to win the division! Arizona has to win the NL West to have any postseason hopes, so the wild card isn’t even a feasible option.
It’s safe to say the Dodgers will play better than .500 baseball the rest of the season. The Dodgers will also win the NL West. Why am I so confident about these things? Because:
The Dodgers aren’t the Kansas City Royals or the Pittsburgh Pirates – More than half of the players on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster have playoff experience. These guys aren’t waiting for the other playoff shoe to drop like often happens with young teams like the Royals and Pirates. If the Dodgers lose a series, there won’t be any panic. Players like Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Carl Crawford won’t let that happen.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are the best 1-2 punch in the game – The Dodgers might begin a series after Kershaw and Greinke have had their turn in the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano might lose to put the Dodgers in a three-game slide. However, do you really think that both Kershaw and Greinke will proceed to lose on consecutive nights? Since the All-Star break, Kershaw is 3-1 with a 1.90 ERA and Greinke is 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA. A significant losing streak just isn’t in the cards for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers are loose and are enjoying life – Juan Uribe recently got picked off third base with the hidden ball trick against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yasiel Puig missed a squeeze sign at third and cost the Dodgers a run. How did the team handle these miscues? With laughter and practical jokes! Uribe was presented with a commemorative base with a shoe taped to it for his embarrassing effort. Following his missed squeeze sign fiasco, Puig was seen learning and laughing in the dugout with Dodgers coaches. The Dodgers are confident, and confidence breeds contentment. After the Dodgers’ comeback win over the New York Mets, Hollywood icon Danny DeVito did a post-game interview wearing a No. 7 Punto jersey that Schumaker had stolen out of Punto’s locker. It’s easy to have fun on this Los Angeles team!