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NL West Race Begins To Heat Up
Joe Gutierrez. 15th August, 2005 - 3:50 am

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The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to battle for another repeat as NL West Champions. Say what you want about this division, but it will be interesting to see which team can come out on top. To pin point how weak this division really is, the winner could actually end up with a losing record entering the playoffs.

At this point in the season, I don?t think it matters how LA creeps into the postseason as long as they get in. The Dodgers upcoming games with Atlanta and Florida will not come easy by a long shot. The Blue Crew are due to face John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, A.J. Burnett, and Josh Beckett. These two series automatically become crucial to them staying alive in their division. They will without a doubt have their work cut out for them.

LA recently had to demote RP Yhency Brazoban from the closer role back to a set-up man. Jim Tracy figures using a combination of Steve Schmoll and Duaner Sanchez will benefit the team to help close out games. This move could be considered a gutsy call, but in all honesty it had to be done. Brazoban in no way was performing like he was earlier in the year when Eric Gagne went down. By making this move with Brazoban, it will help him rethink his pitching mechanics and most importantly regain his confidence. The Dodgers know the potential he has to help them stay in ball games while battling for a playoff berth.

Without question the San Diego Padres will have plenty to worry about when they face off with the Marlins and Braves. With bad news being accustomed to this division, the Padres were told right after being swept by the Phillies that SS Khalil Greene has a broken left toe. Apparently he received it while diving for a ground ball. Although it might not be enough to keep him down, there is a slim chance he could still play through it.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will be idle Monday, but will begin a three game series with the dreaded St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium Tuesday. This favors the Dodgers schedule a little better with the D-Backs already losing three straight entering the series.

The Dodgers know what they must do to keep their season going. Aggressive baseball along with some stellar pitching could help contribute to a decent road trip. With the great power hitter in Jeff Kent, LA must find help from other bats.

1. The team will also need Milton Bradley to put big numbers up in that third spot in the batting order.

2. Jayson Werth needs to find his power stroke again which Dodger fans found out he could produce last season.

3. Cesar Izturis wasn?t voted in as an All-Star for the first time this season for nothing, the Dodgers still need that quick force in the leadoff spot.

How they approach the season from now until the end remains solely in their hands.