The Dodgers' pitching staff needs to perform well, even though they are exhausted and short-handed.
My colleagues in the media believed that when the Dodgers pulled off that blockbuster with the Red Sox, they had almost guaranteed themselves a playoff berth. Although it helped the situation, new players need to get acclimated to their new environment before they perform well. They almost have accomplished this, but the trade came so late in the season that the Dodgers might not have time to wait.
While the Giants, the leaders of the NL West, don't leave the Pacific Time Zone again during the regular season, the Dodgers make one more trip to the East Coast, where they must play two first-place teams -- a much tougher schedule than the Giants.
Obtaining Josh Beckett might have been the greatest acquisition that the Dodgers received from the Red Sox. Yes, Adrian Gonzalez gives the Dodgers a bona fide power-hitting first baseman. He gives the Dodgers another proven run producer who will help to lessen the expectations on Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, and Gonzalez helps to give the Dodgers a more balanced lineup. Although the Dodgers lost a great defensive first baseman in James Loney, they haven't suffered any lack of defense from Gonzalez.
The night before the Dodgers announced the big trade, Chad Billingsley re-injured his elbow. Just after the All-Star break, Billingsley missed one start with elbow inflammation. Upon his return, he was brilliant.
Although the team isn't saying much, since Billingsley has been on the disabled list, he reportedly has received one plasma-rich injection to promote healing. On Tuesday, the Dodgers learned that he needs another one. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that it isn't likely that Billingsley will pitch again this season. Most experienced baseball fans suspect Billingsley needs surgery.
Even though Beckett struggled for the past couple of years while in Boston, he experienced incredible success with the 2003 World Series champion Marlins and the '07 World Series champion Red Sox. Lately, the velocity on his fastball has diminished, so Beckett has needed time to learn how to pitch differently.
In his two starts with the Dodgers, Beckett has done well. Despite being charged with the loss in his first start, he went 5 2/3 innings, allowing only three runs at Coors Field. On Saturday against the D-backs, Beckett went 6 2/3 innings, allowing a run.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers received some good and bad news about their bullpen. Kenley Jansen, who has been suffering from an irregular heartbeat and has been treated by medication to thin the blood, should return on Sept. 18. Although he can't pitch competitively now -- if a ball struck him in the wrong way, the is a risk he might bleed to death -- he can participate in all other baseball activities. He should be sharp when he returns.
Last week, the Dodgers learned that lefty reliever Scott Elbert needs elbow surgery and is out for the rest of the season. Although a ball struck Randy Choate's left thumb Monday, he can pitch. Tuesday, the Dodgers put Javy Guerra on the disabled list with a pulled oblique. He can pitch during the playoffs, but he probably is done for the regular season.
Matt Guerrier, who has missed almost the entire season with elbow tendinitis, blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning Tuesday. If the Dodgers' bullpen was healthier, the team probably would have won Tuesday's game.
Although the Giants have arguably the easiest remaining schedule in the NL, the Dodgers can win the NL West. The Dodgers must play better fundamental baseball than they did on Tuesday. In addition, the Dodgers must get their offense producing.