Three weeks ago a September series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals figured to be not much more than a potential preview of the 2017 National League Championship Series. But the Dodgers’ historic slide has drastically changed the magnitude of the three-game set.
Dependent on what unfolds for both teams leading up to Friday’s series opener at Nationals Park, it’s plausible the top record in baseball and race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will hang in the balance. Washington has already clinched the NL East title, becoming the first team to secure a playoff berth this season.
Last weekend it became evident the Dodgers would not have Clayton Kershaw face the Nationals. His scheduled start against the San Francisco Giants was moved up one day, but the team is electing to provide their ace with an additional day of rest, pushing him to the Philadelphia Phillies series.
With Kershaw out of the fold, the Dodgers are expected to send Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda to the hill against the Nationals, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:
#Dodgers rotation this weekend in DC: Wood, Hill, Maeda.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) September 12, 2017
Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was skipped in the series with the Giants, was expected to start the finale against the Nationals that’s now earmarked for Maeda. With Kershaw pitching Monday, it’s unclear when or how Ryu may factor into the Dodgers’ rotation.
Ryu allowed four runs on seven hits, struck out four without issuing a walk, and suffered the loss when he faced the Nationals at Dodger Stadium on June 5. Wood, Hill and Maeda did not start during that three-game series.
While the Nationals wrapped up a fourth NL East title in the past six years, manager Dusty Baker said his team will continue to chase wins, because catching the Dodgers in the standings is a realistic possibility.