Sarah's Take: Dodgers need to clinch division

Even with postseason berth secured, there's work to be done in final stretch

Sarah's Take: Dodgers need to clinch division

When the Brewers lost Friday night, the Dodgers clinched a playoff berth. Although the Dodgers want to win their second consecutive National League West title, they are in the playoffs.

Before the 2011 season, it didn't seem to matter much if a team won its division or reached the postseason as the league's Wild Card, but now to avoid a one-game playoff, it must win the division. If the Dodgers can't beat the Giants for the division title, they will have a good chance of advancing to the next round of playoffs since the Dodgers have the toughest pitcher in baseball on their side. No one wants to face Clayton Kershaw in a win-or-go-home playoff game.

However, playing a one-game playoff puts unnecessary stress on the rest of the team, because that would prevent Kershaw being on the mound in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

During the current road trip, it has become obvious that the Dodgers don't have enough starting pitching to survive a long series. Even though the news about Hyun-Jin Ryu's shoulder injury was good, he probably can't return to the starting rotation until the playoffs. Normally, this long layoff from pitching is disastrous for the effectiveness of a pitcher, but Ryu usually thrives on extra rest. Now he is playing soft toss. If the regular season wasn't ending next Sunday, the Dodgers probably would have placed Ryu on the disabled list.

On the current road trip the Dodgers should have dominated, they have won only one game not started by either Kershaw or Zack Greinke. Granted, neither Coors Field nor Wrigley Field are known to be friendly to pitchers, but still, the Dodgers should have won more than one game not started by their two aces against two last-place teams.

On the current trip, the Dodgers have been on the wrong end of three blowouts. When a team has a blowout loss, the defense usually doesn't do well, either. But this hasn't been the case with the Dodgers. At the beginning of the season, the Dodgers were an awful defensive team, but since June, they haven't been letting their defense beat them. On this road trip, they have played good defense despite having poor pitching. Sometimes no matter how brilliant the defense is, it can't prevent the opposition from scoring.

Usually, when the Dodgers don't play up to expectations, they can't produce enough runs to win. However, this time, it isn't the offense. Every Dodgers player has broken out of his slump, even Yasiel Puig, who has hit two home runs this week.

Yes, the Dodgers have made the playoffs, but they still have a lot of work to do. They don't want to be forced to win a one-game playoff to advance to the NLDS. At least against the Giants during the upcoming series, Greinke and Kershaw will start two out of the three games. If the Dodgers can beat the Giants two out of the three games, they should be able to clinch the division against them instead of trying to do it against the pesky last-place Rockies.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.