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Is the NL West race over?

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West in 2014, and it appears that will be the case again if fortunes don’t change quickly for the world champion San Francisco Giants. Los Angeles has been dealt a tough hand in 2015 with the injury to Yasiel Puig and the slow start of Clayton Kershaw, and yet it still holds a five-game lead on the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks.

With all due respect to Arizona and its shocking 42-42 start heading into Thursday’s action, it is impossible to believe it will factor into the race. The Diamondbacks are without any true known quantities outside of Paul Goldschmidt, who may or may not be from another planet. Arizona could write a fairy tale story similar to the 2012 Oakland Athletics, but the odds are long.

San Francisco, 43-43, appears to be the only team with any real hope of pulling the Dodgers back to the field before this becomes a victory lap throughout the summer. Los Angeles is beginning to flex its collective muscle at 48-38 with a +60 run differential, the third-best mark in the National League behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Dodgers have been riding a balanced attack, led by Zach Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson and Kershaw. Greinke has the front seat in the race for the NL Cy Young Award, posting a ridiculous 1.48 ERA and seven wins, along with 16 quality starts in 17 attempts. After a slow start, Kershaw is only 6-6 but has a team-high 160 strikeouts and a 2.85 ERA to accompany a miniscule 1.02 WHIP.

Offensively, Gonzalez is hitting .290 with 16 home runs and a club-high 51 RBI. Gonzalez has plenty of support in the lineup, with second baseman Howie Kendrick proving a worthy addition with a .294 average. However, the big story is rookie outfielder Joc Pederson, who is providing a power surge each evening. Pederson already has 20 homers (although his batting average is an anemic .231) and is a participant in Monday’s Home Run Derby in Cincinnati.

With such a loaded roster, the Dodgers are poised to make a postseason run once again, hoping to reach and win the World Series for the first time since 1988. The Giants are not to be discounted in the race yet, but something needs to change by the bay. For a team that has been so reliant on pitching over its recent dynastic run of three championships in six years, the Giants have been mediocre in that department.

Madison Bumgarner has been good and Chris Heston a nice surprise, but everyone else has failed to produce, including a bullpen which has long been one of the best in the game. San Francisco has time to get rolling, but urgency must start to creep in.

Otherwise, the Dodgers will be on cruise control come Labor Day.

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