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Peaked too early? Phillies vs. Dodgers series preview

The Dodgers may have the National League’s best record, but are their best days behind them?

Los Angeles Dodgers v New York Yankees
Ross Stripling and the Dodgers might have lost their competitive edge
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

After Maikel Franco’s walk-off home run on Sunday, the Phillies head into the series against the Dodgers with some momentum. That might be bad news for a Dodgers team which may have lost some of its competitive edge.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 62-33, First place in National League West

The last time they met

The Phillies visited Los Angeles in late May/early June, and I’ll attribute the less-than-favorable results to jet lag.

Letting their guard down?

The Dodgers raced to a 57-29 record through June, and it’s possible that getting off to such a hot start will end up backfiring on them. Their lead in the National League West is likely secure (14.5 game lead), so it’s only natural that they might ease up on the proverbial gas a bit. Their record in July is a more pedestrian 5-4, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect to see the same powerhouse team from earlier in the season.

Bringing a Stripling to a Nola fight

For example, it doesn’t seem like the Dodgers are planning to win on Thursday when they’ll send Ross Stripling to the mound. While Stripling isn’t the worst pitcher the Phillies have faced all season, when the Phillies are starting Aaron Nola, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Nola has looked as dominant as ever over his past several starts, and even a powerful lineup like the Dodgers will probably have some trouble with him.

In order to have a chance, Stripling will need to pitch one of the best games of his life. Considering the Dodgers aren’t sure if he’s even a starter (he’s bounced between the rotation and bullpen this season), that seems unlikely.

Cody Bellinger: MVP?

Cody Bellinger might have been the MVP if the season ended at the All-Star Break (it didn’t), but like his team, he might not be able to sustain his performance throughout the entire season. Looking at numbers from past seasons, his batting average is considerably higher than he previous high mark of .267. And considering he’s only batting .257 over the past two weeks, regression might indeed be rearing its head.

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers
Is the MVP award slipping from Cody Bellinger’s grasp?
Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Speaking of MVPs

Dodgers fans might rave about the team’s offense, but if you compare the Dodgers’ lineup with the Phillies’ (we’re not going to include any pitchers who might have won the award), you’ll find that the Phillies are the team that actually has an MVP winner. And that doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen who is currently on the Injured List!

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals
Let me know when one of the Dodgers hitters win one of these
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Beware those middle innings

The Dodgers have a great closer in Kenley Jansen, and thanks to him, the Dodgers’ relievers numbers look impressive. But once you remove Jansen’s stats, the LA bullpen doesn’t look quite so good. For instance, setup man Pedro Baez has been shaky lately, and Yimi Garcia gives up a fair share of runs as well.

If the Dodgers get to the ninth with a lead, they’re usually in good shape, but if the Phillies can get the starter out of the game prematurely, they’ll have some opportunities to score runs.

Speaking of Jansen

I’m sure most Phillies fans enjoyed watching Maikel Franco’s walk-off home run on Sunday, but Kenley Jansen might not have enjoyed it that much. It might have sparked bad memories of last July when Franco took him deep in the ninth inning. If one of these games comes down to a Jansen vs. Franco showdown, will the closer get unnerved?

The antidote to Kershaw?

Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past decade, but the Phillies may have found the answer to his dominance in Jay Bruce. Bruce has had a good amount of success against Kershaw in the past, having taken him deep three times throughout his career.

LA, meet J.T.

Kershaw may not want to see Bruce, but none of the Dodgers pitchers should be happy to see J.T. Realmuto. In 25 career games against LA, Realmuto has an impressive 1.013 OPS including six home runs. He’s been especially good against Kenta Maeda, going 4-11 with two homers.

Of course, the Dodgers could have had Realmuto on their team. All they had to do was trade one of their young players.


Despite all those factors working against them, the Dodgers are a talented bunch. So I’ll be generous and say they manage a split of the four games.