This might be the best way to sum up the past week for the Los Angeles Dodgers: It was the week of the Kershaws and the Kershants.
It isn't necessarily a surprise that the Dodgers would have a bad week, but it was still a little shocking to see them look this bad as they went 1-6 on a road trip to Arizona and San Diego. Getting swept in a doubleheader by the Padres on Saturday was surely the low point of the season, but it's now been a stretch of mediocre baseball for the Dodgers over the past two-plus weeks: They're 5-10 in the past 15 games.
The bad week effectively eliminates their chance at breaking the MLB single-season record of 116 wins (assuming they don't go 25-1), though the National League record of 108 wins in a 162-game season -- call it the "modern" record -- remains in play.
Record: 92-44 (.676 winning percentage)
Last week: 0-3 at Arizona, 1-3 at San Diego
Record since June 7: 57-19 (.750)
Record needed to get to 117 wins: 25-1 (.962)
Record needed to get to 109 wins 17-9 (.654)
This week: vs. Arizona (Monday-Wednesday); vs. Colorado (Thursday-Sunday)
What's been the culprit over this 15-game stretch? The offense has hit .225/.306/.368 while averaging 3.20 runs per game. The pitching has a 4.52 ERA, including 5.82 from the rotation -- and that's with Clayton Kershaw's gem and Rich Hill's perfect game bid against the Pirates factored in. On the other hand, the two awful starts this week came from Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who are likely the odd starters out in a four-man playoff rotation.
A couple of guys to watch in the lineup are Corey Seager and Curtis Granderson. Seager, who is battling elbow inflammation, hit .314 in 10 games, but with no extra-base hits and no walks. He needs to get healthy. Granderson is hitting .113 in his 15 games with the Dodgers, although he has four home runs, so I'd say manager Dave Roberts will still spend September figuring out his optimal outfield arrangements for the postseason.
Game of the week: Well, this one was easy. Kershaw made his return from the disabled list on Friday and pitched himself right back into possible Cy Young contention with six innings of two-hit scoreless baseball. The Dodgers needed all those zeroes, because they won 1-0 -- Kershaw's 12th consecutive winning decision as he improved to 16-2 with a 1.95 ERA. The most impressive aspect of the outing was his command of all his pitches. He was on a five-inning, 75-pitch limit (give or take) but was so efficient he made it through six innings on just 70 pitches.
As for that Cy Young race, Max Scherzer and Kershaw seem to be the clear Nos. 1 and 2 right now. Scherzer has a 25-inning advantage thanks to Kershaw's 40-day DL stint, but I don't think he's locked things up just yet, with each pitcher getting four or five more starts:
One way to compare the two is to subtract Kershaw's numbers from Scherzer's, to see what Scherzer has done in those 25 extra innings. We get this: 25 IP, 1 H, 13 R, 19 BB, 57 SO, 2 HR.
It does speak to Scherzer's dominance that in his 25 extra innings he has 57 additional strikeouts (and just one more hit allowed). One reason Kershaw has allowed fewer runs per nine innings is he's allowed a .143 average with runners in scoring position. But Scherzer has also been pretty tough, with a .174 average allowed, and 16 of the 20 home runs he's given up have been solo shots. Scherzer's 5.4 hits per nine innings ranks as the sixth-lowest of all time for starting pitchers.
Scherzer has the edge right now, but if he has a bad start or two and Kershaw finishes 20-2 with a sub-2.00 ERA, he will still have a chance.
Arizona Diamondbacks sweep Dodgers in possible playoff preview: Earlier in the week, the D-backs cleaned up on the Dodgers with 7-6, 6-4 and 8-1 wins as starters Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke held L.A. to six runs in 18 2/3 innings. The Diamondbacks have played the Dodgers tough, splitting 16 games and outscoring them 80-68. The Diamondbacks have scored 5.0 runs per game against the Dodgers; everyone else has averaged 3.22 per game.
Considering a Diamondbacks-Dodgers NL Division Series is a possibility (Arizona would have to win the NL wild-card game), does this mean the Dodgers have something to worry about? Sure, Arizona's rotation is good ... and deep, with all five starters owning ERAs under 4.00 despite pitching in a hitter's park. The Dodgers would catch one big break, as Greinke would likely pitch the wild-card game, so if the series went the distance they'd probably face Ray, Godley, Greinke, Patrick Corbin or Taijuan Walker, and then Ray again.
Digging deeper, the Dodgers haven't dominated the "good" National League teams as they've dominated the rest of the league:
The Dodgers have dominated the Rockies in run differential, but are just plus-1 against the other five teams. You might think, "Well, that's what great teams do, beat up on the bad teams." Let's see ... the 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games, went 47-23 against teams above .500. The 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games, went 38-26. Including interleague play, the Dodgers are 34-26. With series against Arizona and Colorado this week, we might get a better idea of how tough the road through October could end up for the Dodgers.