Monday, September 16, 2013

With injuries mounting, Dodgers lean on rotation even more

As the regular season winds down with only 13 games left before the Dodgers take on the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Monday, the dreaded injury bug has once again struck.  This past weekend, as the Giants took three of four in Dodger Stadium, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig all missed various amounts of time with injuries.

That's not to mention Matt Kemp, who looks to finally be activated following his ankle injury.  But who knows how healthy he is.

Only Puig is ready to return to for Monday's game, as the Dodgers will again throw together a makeshift lineup that includes Nick Punto leading off at short, Skip Schumaker in center, and Chili Buss in left.

What does all of this mean?  If the starting rotation wasn't already important enough, they're even more so now.

I can't even imagine what would happen if Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke go down.  Ditto for Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco, who are a notch below the big dogs, but still pretty damn good when they're on.

At this point, the offense basically has nearly three weeks to get things figured out.  The magic number remains at four, so if the Dodgers split with the DBacks this series, then it's all over in the NL West.  I wouldn't say there's pressure on those guys to play through the injuries, but the closer they get to sealing the division, the more they want to just get it over with

Even if those guys are able to rest and get back into the lineup, if this season has taught us anything, it's that the next injury could be right around the corner.  I think the Dodgers just have to hope that the playoffs happen to be during a time of good health, as these guys seem to get a big hit one moment, then are limping off the field the next.

So that takes us back to the starting rotation, and the huge role they will play in October.  In a perfect scenario, the starters would pitch into the sixth or seventh, and the lineup featuring the likes of Puig, Kemp, Ramirez, Ethier, Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez would give plenty of support.  Now, I'm not so sure the offense can be counted on.  That means the starters have to bring their ultimate "A" game night in and night out.

In other words, with the offense in flux, I'm not so sure it'll be good enough to give up 3-4 runs per start.  It may have to be more like 1-2, and hope the offense does just enough to win.

I think that's the beauty of this rotation, though.  They are absolutely capable of doing just that.  They can go four deep and have the advantage against any rotation.  Plus, they have a dominant closer in Kenley Jansen to hand the lead to.  The score might only be 1-0 or 2-1, but that's way it goes.

Let's hope the Dodgers take care of the division soon, the big guns get their proper rest and are ready to go, and the postseason features the Dodgers at their best. 

If not, it's up to the rotation to see how long they last in the bright lights of October.

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