Opposite dugout: After long skid, Dodgers no longer a lock for best NL record

DodgersLogo.jpgManager: Dave Roberts (2nd season)

Record: 94-52

Last 10 games: 2-8

Who to watch: 3B Justin Turner (.326/.419/.536 with 19 HR, 67 RBIs), SS Corey Seager (.305/.385/.489 with 19 HR, 68 RBIs), 2B Chris Taylor (.296 with 19 HR, 67 RBIs), LF Cody Bellinger (37 HR, 86 RBIs), LHP Alex Wood (14-3, 2.81 ERA), LHP Rich Hill (9-8, 3.67 ERA), RHP Kenley Jansen (5-0, 1.29 ERA, 37 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 1-2

Pitching probables:

Sept. 15: LHP Alex Wood vs. RHP Edwin Jackson, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 16: LHP Rich Hill vs. RHP A.J. Cole, 1:05 p.m., FOX
Sept. 17: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg, 8:08 p.m., ESPN

Inside the Dodgers:

A few weeks ago, when the Dodgers were in the midst of an incredible 55-11 win binge that expanded their lead in the National League West to a mind-boggling 21 games, observers were already fast-tracking them to the World Series, regardless of who they faced in the playoffs. Well, reality has set in, the Dodgers suffered through an 11-game losing streak (and fell in 16 of 17) and their once-assumed position as holder of the best record in the major leagues is no longer a sure bet. In fact, the Nationals are within striking distance, meaning what was supposed to be a late-season meeting between two playoff-bound teams suddenly has a lot more significance for both. At least the Dodgers have righted the ship, winning their past two games.

Though the Dodgers have made hay with their pitching staff - ranking in the top three in most of the major statistical categories - don’t sleep on the offense, which doesn’t have to produce a ton when the men on the mound are limiting opponents’ scoring chances to the tune of a collective 3.41 ERA. Third baseman Justin Turner is slashing .326/.419/.536 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs, and shortstop Corey Seager is hitting .305/.385/.489 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs. Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger is back from an ankle injury and leads the Dodgers with 37 home runs and 86 RBIs. Utility man Chris Taylor, playing in his first full major league season, has been quite the igniter: He’s slashing .296/.361/.506 with 19 homers and 16 stolen bases. And he’s played five positions - second, short, third base, center field and left field - which gives the Dodgers some flexibility when creating their lineup. And don’t forget right fielder Yasiel Puig, who has slammed 25 homers and driven in 68 runs.

One of the reasons the Dodgers were able to weather ace Clayton Kershaw’s extended stint on the disabled list with a back problem was the breakthrough season by lefty Alex Wood, whose 14 victories are a career high. Wood, who starts Friday’s series opener, started out 11-0 before taking his first loss on July 21, and has gone 3-0 in five starts since. He’s worked at least six innings in 10 of his last 11 starts. In nine lifetime starts against the Nats, he’s 3-3 with a 2.78 ERA. Lefty Rich Hill, who tormented the Nats in last years National League Division Series, has lost four straight decisions after winning five in a row. He’s only surpassed five innings in three times in his last eight starts and has allowed at least a home run in eight consecutive starts. Lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts Sunday night, is finally healthy after battling shoulder issues for a couple of seasons, and has largely avoided clunker starts (like the six runs he allowed in four innings against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 30). He lost his only career start against the Nats on June 5.

Few closers are as much of a lock as righty Kenley Jansen, who has 37 saves in 38 tries, a 1.29 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. He’s fanned 101 in 62 2/3 innings and walked only seven. He didn’t walk a batter until his 31st appearance on June 25. Overall, the Dodgers’ 3.31 bullpen ERA is the best in the NL and third-lowest in the majors.

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