LOS ANGELES — So far, this season has been quite the adventure for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a slow first couple of months, the team made the most of July and August and has skyrocketed up the standings to grab a commanding lead in the NL West.
While the health of the pitching staff has been and continues to be a big question mark for Los Angeles, pitchers such as Clayton Kershaw, Bobby Miller, and Julio Urias have helped to hold down the fort while the team tries their best to get healthy before the postseason begins.
As the calendar turned from August to September, the Dodgers celebrated entering the final month of the season with their biggest series of the year against the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is currently the best team in the National League and boasts a lineup full of sluggers such as Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Marcel Ozuna, and Ozzie Albies. Somehow each of these players has managed to hit at least 28 home runs, and there’s still a month of baseball yet to be played. Matt Olson is tied for the MLB lead in home runs while Ronald Acuna Jr. is a leading candidate for the NL MVP award. In short, it’s safe to say that the Dodgers certainly found themselves facing an opponent that would show them what they were truly made of.
The Braves ended up winning a 9-8 thriller in the first game of the series that was highlighted by a Ronald Acuna Jr. grand slam which helped him secure his spot as the only player in MLB history to join the 30/60 club.
The next game would also go Atlanta’s direction, as a terrific start from Max Fried left the Dodgers scrambling late in a 6-3 loss. The third game would see the Braves winning another one, as a game that went into extra innings was put to bed by a 3-run home run from Orlando Arcia in the top of the 10th inning. Los Angeles would manage to avoid getting swept in the series finale thanks to some great work from rookie Bobby Miller, who held off the Braves lineup as the team secured a 3-1 victory in the lowest- scoring game of the series.
After losing 3/4 to the only team better than them in the National League, there is certainly room for discussion regarding the legitimacy of this Dodgers squad and their ability to make a deep playoff run. After being bounced from the playoffs last season in the NLDS by the San Diego Padres, the team is certainly out for revenge this year and will look to avoid another short month of October at all costs.
Arguably the most important key for Los Angeles in the playoffs will be the ability of their pitching staff to get to full health and remain that way. Pitchers such as Dustin May (out for season), Tony Gonsolin (out for season), Blake Treinen, Walker Buehler, Michael Grove, Joe Kelly, and Yency Almonte are all currently out with injuries. Their stints on the IL have contributed to the Dodgers’ struggle with maintaining a healthy pitching staff and put even more pressure on the lineup to carry the team in the meantime. An interesting situation for fans to pay attention to the rest of the season will be whether or not Walker Buehler can come back in time to make his highly anticipated return to the Dodger pitching staff. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, and seems to get closer and closer to returning to action with each rehab start that he makes. His return for the playoffs would be absolutely critical and give Los Angeles a big momentum boost against postseason opponents.
The best-case scenario for the Dodgers come playoff time would be to see a rotation consisting of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Bobby Miller, Julio Urias, and Lance Lynn.
With incredibly strong opponents such as Atlanta in the NL and the Orioles in the AL to deal with if Los Angeles wants to accomplish their ultimate goal, the privilege of having an elite pitching staff goes a long way. That privilege has been a signature of the Dodger’s roster for many seasons, and they’ll look to rally the troops for a shot at glory this October.
So, with all things considered, it all comes back to the big question: Do the Dodgers have what it takes to compete with other contenders and win a World Series ring?
My answer? They absolutely do. Los Angeles has a lineup that can compete with the best of them in Major League Baseball, and fans should not let a regular season series put too much doubt into their minds. While the series did point to some flaws that currently exist, that doesn’t mean that they will in the playoffs.
If the Dodgers can get the health of their pitching staff in order and keep their momentum rolling throughout the month of September, they will have a major chance to put together a magical run and put themselves back atop the baseball world for the first time since 2020.