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Dodgers struggling to stay ahead in West

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the most talented teams in baseball, if not at the top of the heap. Los Angeles has a killer lineup with Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Howie Kendrick among others. At the top of the rotation are Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, both boosting plenty of hardware.

However, the Dodgers are 67-55 and losers of four straight at the end of Saturday night’s action. The San Francisco Giants are only trailing them by a game and a half in the National League West, and currently the second-place team would not qualify for the playoffs. The National League Central looks as though it will be sending three teams to the dance, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs on respective rolls.

So, with all that talent, why the struggle? The bullpen is absolutely terrible in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have a pretty good closer in Kenley Jensen, who has been able to notch 24 saves. However, the rest of the pen has dealt with all kinds of shaky performances. Jim Johnson was acquired from the Atlanta Braves and has been nothing short of an absolute disaster, something he was when he joined the Oakland Athletics in 2014. Johnson has pitched in eight games for Los Angeles and has an asinine 21.00 earned run average.

Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher are also key components of the bullpen and have failed to deliver. Both have a 5.40 ERA, leading other teams to believe they will always have a shot in the late innings. On the flip side, the Dodgers can’t believe that a win is cinched away until the 27th out.

If Los Angeles does not fix this leaky bullpen, it won’t win the division. The Giants are defending World Series champions and have three titles in the last five years. Few teams know how to come down the stretch like San Francisco, and if the race is tight, the Giants have a distinct advantage.

San Francisco has the horses to get it done, even without Hunter Pence who was recently put on the disabled list. The Giants also have Madison Bumgarner, clearly the best starting pitcher in the game with all the marbles on the line. It should make for a terrific race down the stretch, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres continue to loom in the distance. Arizona is six games off the pace, while San Diego had surged to 6.5 games behind Los Angeles.

If the Dodgers somehow miss the playoffs, you have to wonder if this team needs to be blow up. The first move might be getting rid of manager Don Mattingly, who seems contantly embattled in the City of Angels.

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