The Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched the division crown and a spot in the playoffs, but the NLDS schedule is by no means set. As the Dodgers and the rest of the MLB play out their last six or seven games of the 2013 regular season, there are still several playoff factors to be sorted out, especially in the National League.
As it stands today, the Atlanta Braves currently sit atop the NL with the best record and hold the number one seed for the NLDS. Alas, with a record of 92-63, the Braves lead the St. Louis Cardinals by only 1.5 games and the Dodgers by only 2.5 games. The Boys in Blue cannot drop to the fourth seed as that is reserved for the winner of the one-game Wild Card Playoff, so the real question is determining whether the Dodgers will finish first, second or third.
Currently, the NL Central division is still a mess of uncertainty as the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates both still have a shot at the division title. With a two game lead over both of these teams, the Cardinals have indeed locked up at least a playoff berth, but still have a magic number of five with six games to play in order to ensure the division title. This chaotic, tight race does not bode well for the Dodgers who have taken to a recent strategy of coasting to the end.
As the NL Central survivors fight for the division and the all-important home field advantage for the leader in the Wild Card race, each team will be giving their all to win as many of their final games of the season as possible. Meanwhile, as the Dodgers have little to play for other than a seed, manager Don Mattingly and his staff seem content to ride out the season and take the third seed happily. Even still, you never know. Maybe the Cardinals will collapse and the Dodgers could wind up the second seed and with home field advantage in the NLDS.
Mattingly’s strategy to coast is not all that bad as his stars are benefiting from the time off as they heal and rest up for the playoffs. Further, as seen by the Dodgers’ brilliant mid-season run, the LA ball club really does not care who comes to town or to which city they have to travel. With a well rested and healthy Hanley Ramirez and a strategically timed, playoff-opening start from inevitable NL Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers look primed and ready to take their third seed gladly.