Round and round we go, where we stop, nobody knows.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts glanced over at his lineup card with a furtive smile on Tuesday afternoon. An all right-handed lineup with his ace, Clayton Kershaw, on the mound to counter the Colorado Rockies ace and Cy Young candidate, Kyle Freeland.
In the opposing dugout was Roberts friend and mentor, Rockies manager Bud Black. The 61-year-old former pitcher sat relaxed, with his legs crossed, addressing the horde of media that had arrived to ask about the UCL ligament of his All-Star shortstop, Trevor Story.
Black delivered good news regarding his MVP candidate, no ligament damage, and a possible return this season. Without Story, the merry-go-round taking place in the National League West would have been far less exhilarating.
Since the start of September, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks have been interlocked in a game of musical chairs with high-stakes implications. The winner of this game will win the NL West, the two losers, possibly missing out on the postseason altogether.
All three teams made the MLB playoffs last season, but with the Milwaukee Brewers comfortably in the driver’s seat of the first Wild Card spot, the probability of all three teams making it again this year is slim to none.
After the Dodgers took three of four from the Snakes at Chavez Ravine at the beginning of the month, they leapfrogged both teams in to first place for the first time since August 3rd. Since that date, the Dodgers and Rockies have quietly runaway from the Diamondbacks, entranced in a two-team dance that is sure to come down to the wire.
The dos-si-do division dance has been repeated for most of the month. Last Friday, the Rockies were in first place. Saturday it was the Dodgers, Sunday it was the Rockies, and on Monday it was the Dodgers again as each team took turns taking a half-game lead over their rivals.
For all intents and purposes, the NL West is the only pennant chase worth watching with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. The American League appears to be all but sewn up, as is the NL East. The Chicago Cubs lead the NL Central by 2.5 games over the Brewers, but the Dodgers and Rockies are the race to watch.
The Rockies and Dodgers will face each other two more times on Tuesday and Wednesday, before their fates are decided by other teams looking to play the role of spoiler down the stretch. With this information firmly in hand, both teams have stacked up their starting rotation for these pivotal final two games that could decide if the Dodgers win the West for the sixth straight season, or if the Rockies win it for the first time in franchise history.
Clayton Kershaw toes the rubber on Tuesday night in the second game of a three-game series against Colorado’s ace, Kyle Freeland. A Dodgers victory guarantees them first place heading into the weekend, a Rockies victory puts Colorado back in first place for the rubber match on Wednesday, which features red-hot rookie Walker Buehler against left-handed pitcher (LA’s Achilles heel), Tyler Anderson.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess what will go down in the division as the Dodgers finish the season with three games against the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants.
Colorado will head to the desert for a three-game series with Arizona, before heading home to the Mile High City for a four-game series with the suddenly fading Philadelphia Phillies and three with the Washington Nationals. That series will be important to both teams fate in the division, as the Rockies have a game in-hand over Los Angeles and the outcome of that game on Thursday, Sept. 27 could present a much clearer picture heading into the final three games of the season.
Which team has the advantage is up for debate. After Arizona, the Rockies will finish their season at home in the offensive powerhouse that is Coors Field against two NL East opponents.
The Dodgers will play their final games on the road against divisional opponents who not only know them intimately, but in stadiums they’ve struggled at this season in Chase Field and AT&T Park.
The Rockies face three teams all currently above .500, with a combined record of 230-221. Whereas the Dodgers face only one opponent in Arizona that is over .500 and a combined record of 209-244.
Both teams have similar records both home and away, so deciding the division will likely come down to the final three game series of the season. Plenty of action, excitement, and gut-wrenching moments are sure to occur over the final two weeks as both teams jockey for divisional supremacy, the postseason, and possibly home field advantage in the first round of the NLDS.
Buckle up, it’s sure to be a thrilling ride.