The Dodgers failed to make a meaningful move at the trading deadline July 31.
A week later, they lead the National League West by 18 games and still have two more wins than the teams chasing them in the American League for home field advantage in the World Series.
Team President Andrew Friedman chose not to trade pitchers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin or shortstop Gavin Lux for bullpen help so the Dodgers will try to survive October with Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez as the closer and set-up men. It just might work.
You normally don’t start to figure out magic numbers — the number of wins for your team and losses for the opponent — that clinch the division title until Sept. 1 at the earliest, but on Aug. 7, the Dodgers’ magic number is 30.
With 46 games remaining, if the Dodgers win half their games the remainder of the season, the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks will have to go 41-7 to catch them. In other words, the Western Division is over.
The Dodgers made some minor moves at the deadline that improved their depth. They traded minor league infielder Daniel Castro to Seattle for utility man Kristopher Negron, who has filled in nicely for Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor, who are both on the injured list.
Negron has played for Cincinnati, Arizona and Seattle over six different seasons. In his first 359 at bats in the major leagues, he hit nine home runs. He hit two in his first eight at bats with the Dodgers
The Dodgers also acquired left-handed relief pitcher Adam Kolarek from Tampa Bay for 2018 draft choice Niko Hulsizer, an outfielder.
Kolarek figures to be a situational left-hander, a pitcher brought in to get a left-handed batter out. So far, he’s been successful half the time in two appearances, about average for the Dodgers bullpen this year.
Baez and Jansen have pitched the Dodgers into the last two World Series. Kelly was there for the Red Sox last year and was brilliant against the Dodgers.
What the Dodgers want to avoid in October is the starters getting shelled early and Yimi Garcia, Dylan Floro and JT Chargois having to get the Dodgers from the fourth to the eighth inning.
In October, though, it could be Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin being the bridge to Baez, Kelly and Jansen.
Despite having the worst season of his career, Jansen is still fifth in saves in the Major Leagues. San Diego’s Kirby Yates leads the majors with 32 saves and he couldn’t get anyone out when the Dodgers rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to win an 11-10 slugfest with the Padres Aug. 4.
Even the best closers blow a save once in a while. With their starting rotation and offensive firepower, the Dodgers should be able to get big enough leads in the post-season to withstand a few bullpen glitches.
With their big lead — and due to some nagging injuries — the Dodgers got an early look at May and Gonsolin in the past week. They both showed they can be starting pitchers in the major leagues.
May started against the Padres Aug. 2. Though he lost the game, he pitched well.
In 5 2/3 innings, he gave up three earned runs and nine hits while striking out three. He didn’t walk anyone.
After pitching four innings in relief July 30, Gonsolin started Aug. 5 against St. Louis and pitched six shutout innings, giving up only two hits and one walk while striking out seven in an 8-0 win.
Now we know why Friedman wouldn’t trade them.
The Dodgers have ended the experiment of Joc Pederson playing first base, which has already strengthened their defense. Barring a catastrophic injury, they seem headed to their third World Series in a row, a feat the Dodgers never have accomplished.
Dodger fans might remember back two years ago when the team had a 20 game lead in the standings at the end of August. The Dodgers then went into a nosedive, losing 16 of 17 games. They recovered and won the division handily.
Last year, the Dodgers were 14-13 in August, but rebounded to 18-9 in September.
Over the last three seasons, the Dodgers are 91-72 in August and September.
The injured list is full with pitchers Rich Hill, Ross Stripling and Hyun-Jun Ryu and position players Alex Verdugo, David Freese, Hernandez and Taylor all recovering from injuries right now. All will be needed in the playoffs, but until then the Dodgers are just coasting.
EXHIBITION FOOTBALL: The Chargers and Rams open the NFL’s exhibition season this week with the Chargers facing the Arizona Cardinals in Phoenix Aug. 8 and the Rams traveling to Oakland Aug. 10 to play the Raiders.
Tune in early if you want to see the starters play. The Rams are at the lead of the newest trend in the NFL, which is to protect starting players from injury as much as possible by not playing them in preseason games.
The coaches already know what the starters can do. This gives them more time to evaluate young players who haven’t made their mark on the game yet. It does not make for good television.
High school teams get by with one preseason scrimmage. College teams don’t even do that. But the NFL insists on playing a four-game preseason schedule because the owners learned a long time ago that people would spend regular season money for preseason games. The owners aren’t about to give that money back.
The players would probably be willing to cut the preseason to two games, but the owners don’t want to give away two games worth of ticket sales and concession stand revenue. That topic will surely come up next time a collective bargaining agreement is discussed.
THE NAME GAME: Speaking of the Rams and the Chargers, the first naming-rights partner for the new Inglewood stadium that will host both teams has been selected.
American Airlines will have its name affixed to a 2.5-acre entryway plaza leading into the stadium that will soon house the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, officials announced Aug. 6.
Under the deal, the open-space area will be dubbed American Airlines Plaza. The space will be open year-round.
Officials with American Airlines and the LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park did not reveal financial details, but Bloomberg reported the deal is worth $90 million over 10 years.
A naming rights deal for the stadium itself — still referred to as Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park — has not yet been announced. Media reports earlier this year suggested that personal finance lender SoFi was nearing a multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal, but no agreement was ever disclosed.
The stadium, set to open next year, will be the centerpiece of the Hollywood Park project, which has an estimated price tag of about $5 billion. The cost of the stadium itself was originally estimated at about $2.6 billion.
The overall 298-acre project will eventually include a performing arts center, hotels, parks, retail shops, restaurants and residences.
American was already the official airline of the Rams, and the new deal will make it the official air carrier of the Chargers as well.
“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with American Airlines and travel with them to Hollywood Park,” said Kevin Demoff, chief operating officer for the Rams. “From building playgrounds and rewarding fans with trips to games to flying the team to Super Bowl LIII, American Airlines and the Rams have made quite a team. We are looking forward to continuing to work together to inspire Angelenos to shine bright and reach new heights.”