With the NL West clinched nice and early, the Dodgers can now focus uninterrupted on the business of attaining their best record possible. Whether or not they can eclipse the Yankees and Astros for best record in MLB, at the minimum they can secure home field advantage over the Braves for the NL playoffs.
However, as I noted recently, the Braves have been quietly giving the Dodgers a good push as of late. The #1 seed is still very much up for grabs, so to get a good idea of who has an easier path, let’s take a look at the remaining schedules for both Los Angeles and Atlanta.
This is the 12th time a Los Angeles Dodger team has reached at least 95 wins in a season.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) September 13, 2019
9/13 to 9/15 – @ New York Mets
For much of this season, this would seem to be a cakewalk as the Mets dipped into their characteristic futility. But then a funny thing happened: they started playing up to their ability. In the hectic NL Wild Card race, the Mets have suddenly staked a potential claim, and right now they look legit.
They’re fresh off a four-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in which Jacob DeGrom, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Marcus Stroman held AZ to three runs in 26.1 innings. Noah Syndergaard gets the ball tonight against Clayton Kershaw, with DeGrom facing Hyun-Jin Ryu on Saturday. On Sunday night’s nationally televised game, Wheeler will face Walker Buehler.
If there’s any series that could hurt all of the Dodgers’ top seed hopes, it’s this one. This is a serious test they must ace.
9/17-9/18 – Home vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Speaking of sneaky good teams, these stellar AL Wild Card contenders will drop by for a couple of games. While it’s only two games, this also could be a series that could get ugly. The teams split their first two meetings in Tampa Bay in May, but the Rays’ elite pitching is nothing to take for granted on any given day.
9/20-9/22 – Home vs. Colorado Rockies
Facing the Rockies, even when they’re middling to bad, always carries the threat of a trap series. But that’s more the case when the action is at Coors Field. This series is at home against a dead-last Colorado squad that’s running out the clock on a disappointing season. As long as Dodger pitching contains that relentless Rockies offense, this should be an easy 2-3 victories.
9/24-9/26 – @ San Diego Padres
On paper, this should go the Dodgers’ way pretty easily. The Padres’ growing pains season has bottomed out to being 10 games below .500 as of this writing. Plus, games at Petco Park basically feel like extra home games with so much blue in attendance. But San Diego has new Dodger Killer Fernando Tatis Jr. ready to strike. This should go their way, but he can make it a trap series instantly.
9/27-9/29 – @ San Francisco Giants
Much like the Rockies, the Giants are also just counting down the days until season’s end as they get ready for a long, long rebuild. But every Dodger fan worth their salt knows Oracle Park is a time-bending vortex of baseball trickery, one where Ty Blach becomes Christy Mathewson and nameless scrubs just called up from Sacramento dribble game-winning infield singles with ease.
It’s satisfying to make fun of the Giants and their fans for having nothing to play for than a mild spoiler. But it’s a role they relish, and they’ve dished it out quite a few times over the years. The Dodgers managed to break the jinx last year with a dominant sweep to force game 163, but that’s only because they absolutely had to. It’s hard not to have a Star Wars-level bad feeling about this series, especially if it decides either MLB or NL home field advantage.
.@ozzie tonight became the 11th player in baseball history to reach 40 doubles and 20 home runs in each of his first two full major league seasons. Albies now has 40 doubles and 22 home runs this year, after collecting 40 doubles and 24 homers last season.#ChopOn pic.twitter.com/UHQYELxw2G
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 13, 2019
9/13-9/15 – @ Washington Nationals
Especially with Max Scherzer pitching tonight, the first series is sure to be a tough one for Atlanta. The Nationals are basically a lock for the first wild card spot, and are fresh off overpowering the Minnesota Twins.
9/17-9/19 – Home vs. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies, meanwhile, are hanging in there in the crowded race for the second wild card slot. They’re not as replete as the Nationals, but they just dished out a 9-5 beating of Atlanta yesterday, and are playing as much for their manager’s job as they are a playoff spot. They won’t go quietly.
9/20-9/22 – Home vs. San Francisco Giants
The Giants may be an eternal menace for the Dodgers, but that dynamic doesn’t apply here. SF has nothing to play for here, and this heavily favors the Braves.
9/24-9/25 – @ Kansas City Royals
Two games on the road against an awful team in the depths of a protracted rebuild. These are likely a gimme.
9/27-9/29 – @ New York Mets
Especially if the Mets stay hot in the final weeks, this will be an especially hard test. As mentioned earlier, New York’s rotation is looking ferocious, and they’re motivated to turn a seemingly lost season into a trip to October. Especially at home against a hated rival, this is one that could easily go the Mets’ way.
Both teams have their hurdles to clear for the rest of September, but on paper the Dodgers have the far easier schedule. The Braves play in the toughest division in the National League, thus meaning they’ll have to face three insurgent wild card contenders. The Dodgers’ divisional foes, meanwhile, are all irrelevant.
Baseball, of course, doesn’t always play out how it should on paper. But especially as the Braves face teams that will be fighting for their postseason lives, it’s safe to bet the Dodgers will hang on for the #1 seed in the National League.