Your weekly recap on the Best (and Worst) of the West. Sept. 12-18th 2022.
CLINCH ACTIVATED! (FOR REAL THIS TIME!)
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the first to secure a guaranteed playoff spot for the 2022 season. No, for real this time. Look, the story isn’t that the Dodgers were going to clinch a postseason berth. Indeed, they’ve already locked up the division. The real story is that the postseason math has become so convoluted that even MLB can’t figure its own system out. Cool.
Two losses and three wins this week mean the Rockies are still technically in the running for a Wild Card spot. But given their wildcard elimination number is 1, I don’t see them keeping that hope through the end of the week. They do, however, play at home this week. This means they have a chance of causing some quality Coors Field tomfoolery against the Giants and Padres.
As their season draws to an inglorious end, sports pundits have started turning their critical eye to the Kris Bryant contract. At a cursory glance, his numbers are good, hitting a .306 average with an OPS of .851. Trouble is, Bryant only played 42 games in purple this season. Plagued with injury after injury, it’s doubtful that he’ll see playing time again this year. If he comes back to full health next season, it’s possible he returns to form. The problem is that his last injury was the onset of plantar fasciitis, which can reoccur without warning. And since it can possibly be triggered by activities like running and quick turns, odds are it will. Tough break for all parties involved.
The Rockies face San Francisco and San Diego at home before hitting the road for the rest of the season.
Rough week at home for Arizona. Out of seven games, they won two, one against the Dodgers, and one against the Padres. They were also shut out three times. Might finish above .500. Probably won’t.
What’s more important to talk about here is the absolute absurdity of having armed cops in body armor protect their pool against a Dodger celebration dip. Unless robbing home runs is a crime. Then yeah, all of the Dodgers outfielders are guilty and there’s plenty of tape around as evidence.
A solid +10 for the theatrics. A solid -100 for the stupidity of sending armed guards to prevent something that hurts absolutely no one. If you don’t want a team to celebrate a postseason clench in your pool, try not to lose to them.
The Diamondbacks face the Dodgers five times in the next four days at Dodger Stadium. I rather hope someone sneaks in an inflatable pool along with a beachball sometime this series.
Armed cops against the likes of Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger. Stay classy, Serpientes.
San Francisco Giants
Five losses and one win haven’t officially knocked the Giants out of wildcard contention, but the window is shrinking. Their elimination number is six. They currently sit 11 games out of a wildcard slot and 9 games behind Milwaukee, the next closest contender.
Fans are already turning their eyes to the postseason and the hopes that a star acquisition is in the works. The most vociferous fans are calling for Aaron Judge. The outfielder has turned down offers from the Yankees and is on the open market come the end of the Fall Classic. Given that San Francisco sits almost right in the middle of payroll averages, the franchise does have the ability to spend. Whether or not Judge is in serious contention is debatable, given how many holes the rest of the roster has.
Questions are also popping up about how much of a grip manager Gabe Kapler has on his clubhouse. Kapler got an earful from pitcher Zack Littell after the starter was pulled from the game on Monday. Littell came into the game in the 8th with a 3-0 lead over Atlanta. After allowing multiple batters to reach and two runners to cross the plate, Kapler had seen enough. Littell was not pleased with his manager, as seen below.
Littell was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento the next day. The Giants claim it was not in retaliation for the argument but for performance. With a blown-up ERA of 5.08 for the season, they aren’t wrong to do it. But as Kapler himself said, behavior is part of performance as well. To Littell’s credit, he did seek out Kapler after the game to apologize, but the damage to both his reputation and his ERA might be permanent.
In a completely bonkers moment, a vendor was caught selling Dodgers gear at Oracle Park. Like, this wasn’t some dude with a bunch of blue caps in his trench coat. This was a legit booth with licensed Dodgers merchandise.
The club claims it was a mistake by a third-party vendor, but I’m guessing they’re still gonna keep the proceeds. Perhaps it will buy them a superstar.
You know, the more I think about it, the biggest argument against the Giants acquiring Aaron Judge is how many law-related puns the rest of the NL West will be subjected to. No thank you.
San Diego Padres
No city knows how to put pressure on a player quite like San Diego. When Juan Soto first arrived from the Nationals, fans waited around the block to see a glimpse of their new young superstar. Then the Tatís debacle happened, then…well…Soto began to struggle.
September has not been particularly kind to him. In 15 games, he’s hit a dismal .163 for his new team, lowering his season average to a career low. It’s just that he’s still Juan Soto and that career low is still a respectable .239. Not too shabby for a guy with only eight hits so far this month.
Three of those hits did come on Sunday, helping to propel the Padres to a much-needed sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps the ship has righted itself. Or perhaps he spent a week away from the boos of a demanding and disappointed Petco Park. Time will tell.
Of course, putting the weight of the team on Soto’s shoulders is grossly unfair. And according to Padres beat writer Kevin Agee, manager Bob Melvin is becoming agitated with his team’s occasional very lackluster performances.
It seems like the anger is back in the Padres clubhouse. Whether it boils over publicly into the dugout as it did last year, that’s anybody’s guess.
I mentioned last week that the series against the Brewers was an important one for both teams, as they are similar in their wildcard positions in their respective leagues. The best the teams could hope for was a split of the two-game series. And that’s exactly what they did.
The Padres are currently in the second wildcard slot and are a half-game up on the Phillies. They face the Cardinals at home and then the Rockies in Colorado to finish the week.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Now that the team has really and truly clenched (thanks for the check, Alanna Rizzo) the Boys in Blue are set to steamroll to October. They’ve set the franchise record for fastest run to 100 wins in 144 games. With 17 games left on the season, it’s possible they break or tie the all-time win record of 116 games, set by the 2001 Mariners. Not very likely, but possible.
While I don’t think the Dodgers are going to let up the pressure, I also don’t think they will be going all out in the next three weeks. In fact, I think it’ll go much like this past Sunday’s game against the Giants. Where the Giants were fighting tooth and nail to avoid a sweep by their bitter enemy, the Dodgers were trying out pitchers for the postseason. They put seven relievers on the mound and gave each of them a long leash. They only reined them in when the game was truly on the line.
Considering the Dodgers face non-contenders Arizona five times and Colorado six times in the next three weeks, I think we’ll see a lot of bullpen tinkering. It’s also possible we’ll see some of our heavies on the bench a little more often, resting up for October.
Careful play that avoids injury will be the name of the game. Max Muncy’s season-ending injury caused by a collision with Brewers infielder Jace Peterson in the last game of the season must weigh heavily on the team’s collective mind. Muncy’s injury just might have been the straw that broke the collective back of the Dodgers going into the postseason.
Muncy has only recently been performing close to his pre-injury form. It goes without saying that an injury like that to a crucial player must be avoided at all costs, as the impact can echo into future seasons. Even if it does mean missing a new record for the history books. The Dodgers have their eyes on winning the last game of the season.
On a small note, it’s possible that Albert Pujols hits his 700th home run at Dodger Stadium when the Cardinals visit this weekend. While no pitcher wants to be number seven hundo, it would be poetic for Tío Albert to hit that milestone in front of the organization and fanbase that helped revive his career. Either way, I’m cheering for you, Tío.
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