Dodgers climbing back to the top in NL West

By David A.

Will the Los Angeles Dodgers win the National League West Division? That question is one of the hottest topics on sports forums across the Internet.

After all, the Dodgers entering their Wednesday night game with the Arizona Diamondbacks having won 14 of their past 17 games. Los Angeles is in second place alone just 2½ games behind the first place Diamondbacks after defeating them 6-1 on both Monday and Tuesday night in the opening two games of a three game set in Arizona.

This season all expectations were high for the Dodgers. They were expected to have a strong three-way battle with the Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants. That has not panned out quite the way many had anticipated. Nevertheless, the Dodgers are fighting for first place with Arizona, with the hapless Giants 6 ½ games back losers of 8 of 10 and treading water furiously.

The Dodgers have a great opportunity to win the West, but with 70 plus games left on the schedule there will be plenty of ups and downs between now and October 1.

The Dodgers have already started to look towards the stretch run by acquiring veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins for three minor league prospects. He won Tuesday’s game versus the Diamondbacks in his debut with the Dodgers.

His acquisition added to the other starters gives the Dodgers a formidable starting rotation that is as good as or better than the rest of the division.

Add to that the return of Hanley Ramirez to the infield and the phenomenal play of rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig and the chances greatly improve that the Dodgers can win the West.

Puig has played in 34 of the Dodgers games this season and is batting .409, has 8 home runs, 19 RBIs, a .436 on base percentage, 5 stolen bases and a .667 slugging percentage.

Los Angeles had to put Matt Kemp back on the disabled list for the second time this season for inflammation in his shoulder. Team officials said it was not related to the operation on his shoulder during the offseason.

Kemp was hardly batting his weight anyway and with Puig playing every day, Kemp’s loss will not affect the Dodgers as much as it would have previously.

Regardless of how well the offense plays, the Dodgers will have to keep their starting rotation healthy in the second half of the season.

With Clayton Kershaw, rookie Hyun-Jim Ryu, Nolasco and Greinke for their starting rotation, the Dodgers pitching staff could challenge St. Louis for the best in the NL.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers are in the heat of the battle and a sweep of the Diamondbacks would put them just a game and a half game back with three to play against the Colorado Rockies before the All Star break.

Catching the Diamondbacks before the All Star game is not a necessity, but it would do wonders for their attitudes if they could get their rest during the break knowing they are NL West leaders.