Around the West: Dodgers Face an Uphill Battle

It feels like I haven’t written one of these in a while, but it only seems that way because so much has happened over the last two weeks in the National League West. The busiest day during the baseball season is on July 31st, the date of the trade deadline. So in a three-team race for first place in the NL West there were lots of moves to be made for the final stretch of season. It was the Dodgers who made the most noise before the trade deadline, when they acquired superstar caliber third baseman Hanley Ramirez and relief pitcher Randy Choate in a blockbuster trade from the Miami Marlins. The last name Ramirez alone brings back great trade deadline memories for Dodger fans.

That wasn’t the only splash the Dodgers made during the last couple of weeks, with the new ownership doing as they promised and doing whatever it takes to win now. They then added another reliever for the bullpen, trading for the Seattle Mariners’ Brandon League. It was on July 31st when the Dodgers ended the deadline with a bang! One of the most disliked players by Dodgers fans was traded to the Boys in Blue, Philadelphia Phillies center-fielder Shane Victorino.

This was a pretty weird moment for me I must admit, the guy known as the Flyin’ Hawaiian who ripped out our bleeding blue hearts is now on the good side. Now I have no choice but to root for this guy, which I have no problem with. If he plays the way he did with the Phillies when he constantly pissed his opponents off, then I’m all for him wearing the Dodger Blue.

However, one player from the Philadelphia Phillies wasn’t enough for the Dodgers, as they traded for starting pitcher Joe Blanton just a few days later when he was put on waivers. This was by far the most exciting trade deadline to be a part of as a fan, with the Dodgers being involved in every rumor in the world of baseball. As far as the standings go, the Dodgers with a 59-50 record are currently a 0.5 game back behind the San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West. The Dodgers coming off a sweep against the Cubs will play host to the Colorado Rockies for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium starting tonight.

San Francisco Giants – 59-49
The Giants are holding on to first place by just a 0.5 game with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks looking to take them over at any time. In a three-game weekend series over a week ago they were swept by the Dodgers, but managed to stay put at the top of the division. At the trade deadline, this team was looking to upgrade their offense, by adding a productive bat to a lineup that is without injured third baseman Pablo Sandoval at the moment. Their biggest move of the deadline was when they got a deal done with the Philadelphia Phillies, which got them right fielder Hunter Pence in return. Pence will be another reliable bat to go along with Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval who could be back in the lineup by next week.

They also picked up a solid utility guy in Marco Scutaro, who is filling in for Sandoval at third base but can play any of the infield positions and handles the bat well. This past weekend the Giants swept the Rockies on the road, which was huge with the Dodgers sweeping a series of their own. The Giants will continue their road trip with a tough four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals starting tonight.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This section will always remain the same, their starting rotation. Any of the guys that they put on that mound every night can dominate a baseball game.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Giants bullpen is ranked in the bottom half of baseball with a 3.65 ERA. It was shock that the Giants didn’t go out and get bullpen help at the deadline. Santiago Casilla is their current closer and has 24 saves in 30 opportunities on the year.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .327 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs. ‘

Biggest disappointment: Brandon Belt, hitting .239 with four home runs and 33 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Melky Cabrera, hitting .352 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 55-53
Last week the D-Backs swept the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium to come within 2.5 games of first place and 1.5 games behind the Dodgers for second place. This was a team that was debating whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline, and it turns out they could be in this race until the end. They traded away fan-favorite third baseman Ryan Roberts, which wasn’t a big move since he was struggling this season. A couple of days after that the D-Backs traded for the Astros’ third baseman Chris Johnson.

Johnson is a big pickup for a team that wasn’t getting much production at that position. He made some noise last week against the Dodgers when he hit a grand slam, which ended up being the difference maker. The D-Backs are currently 4.0 games out of first place after losing two out of three games to the Phillies over the weekend. They will start a four-game series today against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): They just swept the Dodgers in a heated three-game series and it was all due to the D-Back long ball. This team is starting to get the swagger back that carried them to a division title last season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): A lot of key players for this team have performed below-average for the majority of the season and if this continues they won’t be able to defend their division title.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .283 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Chris Young, hitting .216 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Paul Goldschmidt, hitting .300 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs.

San Diego Padres – 46-64
At the beginning of the season I will admit that I didn’t give this team any credit at all, but things have changed. They have been playing scrappy baseball since the second half of the season and can give teams a hard time. A team without a superstar is made up of a bunch of young players trying to rebuild this organization. It may take a while for this team to be a legit contender, but you have to respect the effort manager Bud Black gets from these guys every single game. The Padres just took two out of three games from the Mets over the weekend and are currently 14.0 games out of first place in the division. They will start a three-game series at home tonight against the Chicago Cubs.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This team has nothing to lose and will try to play spoiler from here on out to knock teams out of the playoff race.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Padres have the worst team batting average in the major leagues at .237 on the season.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .271 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .212 with six home runs and 31 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Chris Denorfia, hitting .284 with three home runs and 20 RBIs.

Colorado Rockies – 38-68
I will never understand how the Rockies have become one of the worst teams in baseball this year. They currently hold the second worst record in all of baseball behind the Houston Astros. It’s just weird seeing a team with a player like Carlos Gonzalez fall this far back, although they have been without Troy Tulowitzki for the majority of the season. It also doesn’t help that they have the worst pitching staff in baseball and a surprise free agent pickup right fielder Michael Cuddyer was just placed on the 15-day DL.

This is actually a team that I thought would be making a legit run at the division title at this point, I’ve never been more wrong. At this point they’re 20.0 games out of first place in the division and just got swept in a three game series against the Giants at home. They will start a three game series tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Despite their record this season, they have managed to tear the cover off the ball at the plate. They are ranked second in the National league with a team batting average of .267 and they are ranked second in the National league with 504 runs scored on the season so far.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Pitching is terrible. I know Coors Field is a hitter’s park but you play at other parks too, come on. They are ranked last in all of baseball with a 5.51 ERA and that’s actually all you need to know.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .327 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Drew Pomeranz, 1-6 record with a 5.13 ERA in 11 starts.

Biggest surprise: Dexter Fowler, hitting .290 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs.

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