Sarah's Take: Injuries majorly impacting NL West race

Health of players will largely determine whether Giants or Dodgers win division

Sarah's Take: Injuries majorly impacting NL West race

While the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants battle for the National League West title, they are dealing with injuries. The race between these two teams should go down to the wire.

Injuries are a part of baseball, but it seems that both the Dodgers and the Giants have had to utilize the disabled list too much. And this has lessened the excitement of the race.

The whole NL West has been devastated by injuries. Although not many people thought the Colorado Rockies would compete for the division title, no one thought they would be in last place in August. The Rockies lost Michael Cuddyer for over two months of the season, and currently he's on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzi have had season-ending surgeries. With weakened offensive production, Colorado needed to rely on a good pitching staff, but it has four starters and a reliever on the disabled list. No team can be competitive with this many injuries.

Most baseball people thought the Arizona Diamondbacks would challenge the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. But nothing has gone the D-backs' way from the beginning of Spring Training. The magnitude of injuries has made it impossible for them to be one of the elite teams in the division. In fact, they have traded off some of their expensive veteran talent to rebuild the organization for a competitive future. Since Kirk Gibson became the winningest manager in the history of Arizona's organization, it shouldn't be a surprise that they climbed out of last place even though Paul Goldschmidt (fractured left hand) is out for the rest of the season.

With a brilliant bullpen, the San Diego Padres have had injuries that undermined an already light offense. Jedd Gyorko missed over a month, and right now he's dealing with a left hamstring issue. San Diego's talented first baseman, Yonder Alonso, already missed a month and will have season-ending surgery on his right forearm. The Padres have also lost several starting pitchers. Despite all of the injuries (more than I have mentioned), San Diego has played much better since the end of May.

The Giants have dealt with many injuries throughout the season, but they still maintained an elite status in the NL West.

San Francisco has searched for a satisfactory replacement for second baseman Marco Scutaro for nearly the entire season. General manager Brian Sabean even signed Dan Uggla to play second base, but that experiment didn't work. Without much offensive production from the second-base position, the Giants had the lead in the NL West through June.

The Giants have been playing without the services of both Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez, who are recovering from concussions. Belt, their power-hitting first baseman, had already missed significant time this season with a broken left thumb. In the recent past, Belt's injuries would have spelled doom for San Francisco, since it could ill afford to lose any offensive production, but with the addition of Michael Morse, the Giants have a more powerful offense.

With Sanchez, San Francisco's backup catcher, on the disabled list, manager Bruce Bochy has limited options for that position. Since Buster Posey is arguably the best offensive player on the Giants, Bochy dislikes taking Posey out of the lineup for the increased rest that catchers require. When Sanchez is able to play, Bochy is comfortable playing Posey at first base. Bochy hopes both Belt and Sanchez can return sometime in September.

A couple of weeks ago, the Giants reinstated center fielder Angel Pagan from the disabled list. When Pagan plays, San Francisco is a much better team. He's the offensive catalyst and helps to settle down the Giants' outfield defense.

Although the Giants have already lost Matt Cain for the season with bone chips in his right elbow, Bochy demoted Tim Lincecum to the bullpen on Monday. Since 2011, Lincecum has struggled with his command, despite hurling two no-hitters in that period. During the '12 postseason, he was fantastic in relief. Taking Lincecum out of the starting rotation will make the bullpen stronger.

While the Giants are in second place in their division, they can easily catch the Dodgers. August has been a rough month for the Dodgers, even though they have maintained their top position. This month alone, they have placed seven players on the disabled list. Last week, they had a scare with starting pitcher Zack Greinke when he experienced right elbow soreness. He had the same issue during Spring Training in 2013. This time, a precautionary MRI revealed no changes in Greinke's elbow, so the Dodgers only pushed his start back two days. After going seven innings against the New York Mets, he reported no ill effects.

On Sunday, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez returned from the disabled list. Even though he will strengthen the offense, he will weaken the defense. Both Miguel Rojas and Erisbel Arruebarrena are much better defensive shortstops.

Manager Don Mattingly doesn't think Hyun-Jin Ryu will need a rehabilitation assignment. His strained right gluteal muscle has been progressing nicely. Juan Uribe (strained right hamstring) will need more time, but the superior play by Justin Turner makes Uribe's absence bearable. The Dodgers are hopeful that Chris Perez can return to the bullpen.

The health of the teams will determine who wins the NL West.

Sarah D. Morris is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.