Monday, September 2, 2013

Dodgers and Braves, and the race for tops in the NL

Zack Greinke took care of business on Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the Padres, tossing seven innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts, improving to 14-3 with a 2.78 ERA.  Yasiel Puig's solo shot in the sixth proved to be the difference, as he's responded very well since his embarrassing benching last Wednesday.

With the win, the race in the NL West has to be declared all but dead, as the Dodgers have a whopping 11 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks, who dropped a home game to the Giants.

Speaking of division races that are all but over, the Braves have a 14-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East.  They also hold a two-game advantage over the Dodgers for the top spot in the National League.

With that in mind, it's time to take a look at what lies ahead for each team in September in the race for home field advantage.

Dodgers (81-55)
Home Games: 10 (Diamondbacks 3, Giants 4, Rockies 3)
Away Games: 16 (Rockies 3, Reds 3, Diamondbacks 4, Padres 3, Giants 3)
Opposing Teams Winning %: .485

Braves (83-53)
Home Games: 13 (Mets 3, Padres 3, Brewers 3, Phillies 4)
Away Games: 13 (Phillies 3, Marlins 4, Nationals 3, Cubs 3)
Opposing Teams Winning %: .444

Right off the bat, the Braves have an advantage in both home games and ease of schedule.  Both teams play the majority of their games in the division the rest of the way.  But, the Dodgers have to go to Cincinnati as their only non-NL West opponent, and the Braves get the Brewers at home and Cubs on the road in their only games outside the NL East.  Plus, the Braves play their final seven games at home, where they're a Major Leauge best 49-19.  Another big advantage.

What the Dodgers do have going for them is their health, which is something that has plagued them for most of the season.  While they can expect the return of Matt Kemp to the lineup at some point this month, the Braves will be without Jayson Heyward most likely until the playoffs.  Plus, you can forget about Brandon Beachy and Tim Hudson for this season.

With all of this in mind, the Braves still have to feel good about wrapping up the top spot.  Both teams have soft schedules, but the Braves have a super fluffy pillow soft one.  Of their 13 remaining games at home, it's not out of the question to think they can win every one of them, or 10 at the least.  The Dodgers are a very good road team, but will still face a tough matchup with a hungry Reds team looking to either win the NL Central or get a home Wild Card game.

Keep in mind that crazy things can happen in September (Red Sox in 2011, anyone?), as the Pirates and Cardinals are only four games behind the Braves.  While the playoff teams are pretty set, the positioning should be tight all the way through the end of the month.

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