Do you think the Los Angeles Dodgers are regretting that big trade with Boston yet? L.A. essentially gave the Red Sox a lifeboat by taking on more than $250 million in guaranteed contracts in landing Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett with the expectation that Gonzalez and Beckett (Crawford is out for the season) would lead the team to the playoffs.
Well, the NL West title is gone as the Dodgers enter play Monday 7.5 games behind the Giants. L.A. is only a game out of the NL’s second wild-card, but it sure doesn’t look like the Dodgers will take one of those spots. After losing in 12 innings to St. Louis on Sunday, L.A. has now dropped seven of its past 10 games. Gonzalez is batting .233 with one home run since arriving in Dodger blue. Shane Victorino, acquired before the trade deadline from Philadelphia, is hitting.233 with Los Angeles, and he has struck out more (26 times) than he has scored (20 times). Beckett has actually pitched OK but the team is just 1-3 in his starts.
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The big problem, however, lies with ace Clayton Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young winner. He was supposed to start Sunday’s game but was scratched due to a hip injury. The Dodgers will learn Tuesday whether Kershaw will need surgery on that hip – surgery would not only sideline him for the rest of this season but also likely at least the first six weeks of the 2013 season. If Kershaw is done, and the team does think he will need surgery, that all but ends the Dodgers’ playoff chances. He is 12-9 with a 2.70 ERA and leads the NL in innings (206 2/3) and strikeouts (206). The Dodgers already are without fellow starters Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly for the rest of this season. L.A. starts a nine-game road trip Tuesday in Washington. It is +1200 on Sportsbook.ag to win the NL Pennant.
Staying with the NL wild-card chase, could the Milwaukee Brewers improbably return to the postseason this year? And, perhaps more improbably, could Ryan Braun repeat as the NL MVP winner? Milwaukee won two of three over the weekend vs. the Mets and hasn’t dropped back-to-back game since mid-August when it was 12.5 games out of the second wild-card spot. The Brewers, left for dead after trading ace Zack Greinke to the Angels, are now just 2.5 games out of the second wild-card spot and have won 20 of their past 26 games.
Braun had two homers on Sunday to reach the 40-homer plateau, just the fifth Brewers player ever to do that. He is hitting .312 with 103 RBI overall and .320 with 16 homers and 42 RBI since the break. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was signed to replace the gaping hole in the lineup left by Prince Fielder, and Ramirez is hitting .332 with 14 homers and 40 RBI since the break. Since the start of August, Milwaukee leads the NL in runs scored.
The Brewers, +2000 to win the NL pennant, start a very tough 10-game road trip Tuesday in Pittsburgh, followed by visits to Washington and Cincinnati. Quietly, Marco Estrada (3-6, 3.77) has more than filled Greinke’s shoes. Estrada, set to start Wednesday, has a 2.82 ERA in his past eight starts. The righty has a 2.84 ERA and 21 strikeouts in two starts vs. Pittsburgh this season.
It’s time to bail on the Pirates, who have lost 12 of 15 entering Monday’s series finale at the Cubs. Pitcher James McDonald was a big reason for Pittsburgh’s strong start, but he was just removed from the starting rotation as McDonald is 3-5 with a 7.08 ERA since the all-star break; he was 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in the first half. Reliever Kyle McPherson will take McDonald's turn in the rotation Wednesday against Estrada and the Brewers. McPherson (0-0, 1.54 ERA) leaving the bullpen is about the last thing the Pirates need considering Bucs relievers have a 5.81 ERA in 14 games in September.
Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances of holding down that final NL wild-card spot should get a lot better starting Friday as Chris Carpenter will make his first start of the season, at the Cubs. Carpenter was supposed to be done for the season after July surgery to relieve nerve compression that resulted in numbness on much of the right side of his body. He was 11-9 with a 3.45 ERA last season and came up huge in the playoffs. Carpenter has made four simulated starts and had no setbacks.
St. Louis, which just finished a 2-5 trip to California, could give itself a nice cushion in the wild-card race as its next nine games are against the NL’s two worst clubs, the Astros and Cubs. The Cards are +750 to win the NL Pennant. Carpenter figures to get in three starts before the end of the regular season. With him back, manager Mike Matheny has shifted Joe Kelly back to the bullpen.
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