The Dodgers have had a whole lot of fun since the All-Star break, beating up on the Nationals, Blue Jays, Reds, Yankees, and Cubs to go 14-2. The result is a 5 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks in the NL West.
That's all well and good, but business is about to pick up. Enter the Cardinals and Rays.
The next seven days will be spent playing two teams with a combined record of 131-90 for a winning percentage of .593. The combined record and winning percentage of those other four teams? 272-283, .490. Those numbers speak for themselves.
First up is the Cardinals for four in St. Louis. Don Mattingly made a slick move on Sunday by starting Stephen Fife (who responded with 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball), and pushing back everyone else a day. The result is the two studs at the top, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, starting the first couple of games in St. Louis, and should be lined up for starts against the Rays as well. So, the big guns are rested and ready to go.
These games were already going to be hard enough to win, but now with the shoulder injury to Hanley Ramirez, it could be that much tougher. And I only say COULD because as of this writing, we have no idea how long he's going to be out. That's as big a question mark as can be right now.
Despite all of that, the Cardinals are hard to beat no matter who's in and who's out. Right now they're 20 games over .500 at 65-45 and are 1 1/2 games in back of the Pirates in the NL Central. They'll run out Adam Wainwright, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Jake Westbrook in the four-game set. After Greinke and Kershaw come Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano. All four range from good to terrific.
Plus, the Cardinals are a dominant 32-17 at home, and only the Braves have less losses at home (15). The Cards have also played many road games, so the second half schedule has lots more home cooking for them, putting them in a great spot for the postseason run.
After finishing up with the Cardinals on Thursday comes three game back in LA against the red hot Rays, who continue to defy all logic with a tiny payroll and huge results. They're at 66-45 right now, and are neck-and-neck with the Red Sox for first in the AL East, currently only a game back. And you know what? They still don't get the respect they deserve.
Right now the Rays have David Price, Roberto "Don't Call Me Fuasto Carmona" Hernandez, and Jeremy Hellickson lined up for this series. Price and Hellickson are very good, so Hernandez is the only one that could be considered an "easier" game.
Mattingly could once again decide to start Fife after Capuano goes on Thursday, so that would bump Kershaw back to the next series against the Mets. I certainly hope not, as a big week like this, especially if Ramirez will be out, requires the best pitchers on the mound. So, no disrespect to Fife, but he shouldn't be starting this week.
Of course we all want the Dodgers to win every game. Heck, they practically have been! But to be honest, if they go 4-3 this week, I'll be very happy. That's more of a nod to how great the Cardinals and Rays are, as even a team at 100% health would have a handful against them.
But uh... having Ramirez available to play would be nice. I'm just sayin'!