The Los Angeles Dodgers need a big series against another playoff-bound team this weekend to have a shot at extending their run of National League West titles.
The NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers visit Los Angeles for a three-game series starting Friday.
The Dodgers (103-56), seeking a ninth consecutive NL West title, enter two games behind the red-hot San Francisco Giants in the division.
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw (10-8, 3.38 ERA) is headed to the mound for Los Angeles in the series opener. In 15 career regular-season starts against the Brewers, Kershaw is 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA. In four playoff games (three starts) vs. Milwaukee, he is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA.
However, the veteran has made just three starts since returning from more than two months away because of left elbow inflammation.
Kershaw has not thrown more than 74 pitches or five innings in any of those three outings. He had the worst start of his comeback on Saturday when he gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits over 4 1/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 7-2 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
That was the only time the Dodgers lost over their last seven contests, including an 8-3 victory over the Padres on Thursday that gave them their third consecutive sweep of San Diego.
After hitting six home runs Wednesday to rally past the Padres, the Dodgers hit five more Thursday. When Mookie Betts and Corey Seager hit consecutive home runs to open the Thursday game, the Dodgers were on a run of seven home runs in 14 at-bats over two games.
“We were just trying to put good swings on balls again,” Seager said on the SportsNet LA broadcast. “We just kind of picked up where we left off. Take good at-bats, swing at pitches you (like) and good things happen.”
The Brewers do not have the Dodgers’ division concerns. They know they will face the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series beginning Oct. 8.
The Brewers (95-64) have dropped seven of their past 11 games and enter off two defeats in three games at St. Louis. They did end the Cardinals’ 17-game winning streak with a 4-0 victory on Wednesday.
Milwaukee will send left-hander Eric Lauer (7-5, 2.93 ERA) to the mound Friday as he tries to close out a solid stretch runs. In five September starts, Lauer went 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA, giving up no more than one run in any of the five outings.
As if Lauer’s current form weren’t impressive enough, he also is 6-0 with a 1.89 ERA in eight career starts against the Dodgers and 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts at Dodger Stadium.
Where Lauer fits into the postseason rotation remains to be seen, with a strong start against the Dodgers possibly what he needs to be asked to fill a significant role.
“The rotation always shortens up (in the playoffs) and you ride your horses out a little bit longer,” Lauer said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what (the rotation) is going to be. I might start a game, I might come out of the ‘pen. I’m ready for all hands on deck.”
–Field Level Media