The Los Angeles Dodgers will head into their final series of the season as the National League West champions, as well as the top seed in the NL playoffs, yet still have one more order of business to get through before the postseason begins.
The Dodgers' magic number to clinch sole possession ofthe best record in baseball, and home-field advantage through the World Series, is one. They have a chance to make it official Friday night in the beginning of a six-game series against the visiting Colorado Rockies.
Three of the games in the upcoming series were regularly scheduled, while the other three are makeup games after the opening week of the season was postponed because of the owners' lockout during the offseason.
The Dodgers (108-48) completed a 14-5 season series against the San Diego Padres with a 5-2 victory on Thursday as rookie Miguel Vargas drove in three runs, including a two-run, go-ahead single in the sixth inning.
Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (10-3, 2.42 ERA) not only is scheduled to pitch Friday in the opener of the extended series, he also is expected to be the starter against Colorado in the regular-season finale on Wednesday.
Kershaw appears to be lined up as Los Angeles' No. 2 starter when the NL Division Series begins during the second week of October, behind fellow left-hander Julio Urias.
Since returning from a back injury at the start of September, Kershaw cemented his spot in the playoff rotation by going 3-0 over his last five starts with a 1.80 ERA to go along with 36 strikeouts in 30 innings.
In 46 career starts against the Rockies, Kershaw is 21-11 with a 3.50 ERA, although in two starts against the division rivals this season, he is 0-2 with an 8.68 ERA.
Although the 34-year-old is only signed through this season, and retirement has been rumored as a possibility, it does not sound as if the end is near for the future Hall of Famer.
"I think that's the best way to put it -- I'm leaning towards playing (in 2023 but) hold the right to change my mind," Kershaw said, according to The Orange County Register. "But I think as of now, I don't know -- it just doesn't feel over yet. That's how I'm going into the postseason. This month can change a lot. This offseason can change stuff."
The Rockies are scheduled to send right-hander Chad Kuhl (6-10, 5.45) to the mound on Friday. In his first season with the Rockies, after five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kuhl has thrown the second-most innings in his career (133 2/3).
Kuhl's top moment this season came June 27 when he fired a complete-game shutout at home against the Dodgers, allowing just three hits with no walks. In six-career starts against the them, he is 3-3 with a 4.41 ERA.
The Rockies enter the series on a five-game losing streak after they were just swept by the San Francisco Giants, falling 6-4 on Thursday. The young Colorado roster also has dropped nine of its last 10 games as it limps to the finish line having already clinched last place in the NL West.
"We'll be better off for it in the long run," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "It's very rare that this number of rookies come up and it's seamless. It's tough. The major leagues are tough. And these guys are learning."
--Field Level Media