The Los Angeles Dodgers dropped a half game behind the crippled San Francisco Giants with a gut-wrenching home game loss yesterday. The loss came despite another brilliant performance by Clayton Kershaw in which he only allowed six hits over eight innings with two earned runs and 10 strikeouts.
However, in spite of blowing a chance at putting some distance between themselves and San Fran—with a pitch outing that the Dodgers' hitters should have taken advantage of—the boys in blue will still win the NL West and make a run through the postseason.
The new-look Dodgers have already excited fans in the L.A. area by acquiring several solid pieces before the trade deadline, all which have shown up in games. Hanley Ramirez has been particularly good and is showing he just needed a change of scenery, and Shane Victorino has made his veteran presence at the top felt. Randy Choate and Brandon League have been solid additions to the bullpen. The only player that has seemed to struggle is Joe Blanton in the No. 5 pitching slot.
In addition, with the loss of Melky Cabrera for 50 games (and maybe more after his attempt at trickery), the Giants have lost their best contact hitter and and their tone-setter. While he wasn't hitting for a ton of power, the loss of a .346 batter that had already scored 84 runs will definitely sting for a team that, at times, struggles to produce offense. The impact hasn't been realized yet, but the loss of Melky will hurt the Giants overall.
However, neither of these are the reason the Dodgers will triumph in the NL West and make noise in the playoffs. That true reason is the resurrection of Chad Billingsley.
By failing to obtain a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Kershaw at the trade deadline, the Dodgers looked to be a piece short in moving forward in October. Some groaned when they didn't pull the trigger on a a deal for Ryan Dempster, knowing that the price (Allen Webster) would be too steep for a 34-year-old rental, who may sign with them in the offseason anyway (That is IF they want him and IF his feelings aren't hurt).
However, Billingsley has made those thoughts all but disappear. The former All-Star, who has struggled mightily over the past couple of seasons after showing such promise early in his career, has reemerged as an ace, showcasing his skills over the last six contests. Billingsley is 6-0 over that period, while posting a jaw-dropping 1.30 ERA.
We have seen Billingsley shine before and then regress, but this time it appears that he's healthy and ready to be the second starter needed for a successful October run. With Clayton catching fire again, the Dodgers now have a fairly formidable lineup, with two excellent pitchers at the top of their staff. If they can reach the playoffs and win the NL West, then the rest of the NL should watch out for this dark horse in blue come October.