Sarah's Take: Dodgers still alive in NL West

Sarah's Take: Dodgers still alive in NL West

Sarah's Take: Dodgers still alive in NL West
When Wednesday's games began, the Los Angeles Dodgers trailed in the National League West Division by 4 1/2 games and in the National League Wild Card race by 1 1/2 games.

With less than a month to play in the regular season, the Dodgers must regain the form that they displayed in April and May. If they don't, it is doubtful that they will make the playoffs. After having the best record in baseball until the middle of June, the Dodgers shouldn't be worrying now whether they will go to the playoffs.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has made five trades since the All-Star break that should have improved the team. After acquiring these new players, the Dodgers haven't played up to their potential. Now they likely can't obtain any more players to strengthen the team, and in the past two weeks, they have lost three pitchers to injury.

Now even if teams make trades, the new players aren't eligible to play in the postseason. The Dodgers' pitching staff needs to perform well even though they are exhausted and shorthanded.

My colleagues in the media believed that when the Dodgers pulled off that megatrade with the Boston 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 San Francisco 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. The Dodgers have a much tougher schedule than the Giants.

Josh Beckett might have been the greatest acquisition 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 he 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 reinjured 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 years while in Boston, he experienced incredible success with the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins and the 2007 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 Arizona Diamondbacks, 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, because if a ball struck him, 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 Scott Elbert, one of their left-handed relievers, 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 rest of the regular season.

Matt Guerrier, who has missed almost the entire season with elbow tendinitis, blew an eighth-inning, two-run lead Tuesday. If the Dodgers' bullpen were healthier, the team probably would have won Tuesday's game.

Although the Giants have arguably the easiest remaining schedule in the National League, 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.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.