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Stick a Fork in the NL West, It's Done

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Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 1:18 PM

click to enlarge Clayton Kershaw - DAVID BLUMENKRANTZ/ARROYO SECO JOURNAL

Let's get something straight right now. You cannot jinx a pennant. You can't jinx a division either. You cannot jinx a no-hitter by sharing it with your audience it in a broadcast, and you most certainly can't jinx a no-no by talking to a pitcher in the dugout during the late innings.

I've made the case before and I don't want to have to go over it again. Listen to me now. Plain and simple, there's no jinxing in baseball.

The National League West race is over. It's done, fini, kaput, toast. Burnt-in-the-Arizona-desert toast. The Dodgers are going to win the division, so let's stick a fork in it right now. And since Los Angeles is winning it with their arms, what do you say we go ahead and make it a 'pitch' fork.

The Dodgers are winning because of the entire state of their play, of course, but since the 'hit' fork doesn't roll off the tongue like a routine grounder up the sleeve of a Miami Marlins infielder, we'll focus on pitching for today.

As I said on Opening Day, all Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax comparisons are on the table. They have been for some time, and it's almost scary to think about where the discussion may go from here. The marlin is a really big fish, but yesterday in Florida Kershaw disposed of his opponents like unwanted anchovies on a pizza, going eight shutout innings in L.A.'s 6-0 win over the human-sized Marlins.

It was Kersh's third straight win. He's won eight of his last 10 decisions, leads baseball with a 1.72 earned run average, and sports an ERA of 1.02 since the All-Star break. Barring the unimaginable, Kershaw's 2013 post-All-Star Game ERA will better his pre as it has in every season of six-year career.

Zack Greinke's post-ASG ERA is 1.88. He has nine wins in his last 10 decisions, and Los Angeles has won 13 of the last 15 times he's taken the mound.

Hyun-Jin Ryu's mark stands at 12-4 and 2.95, leaving his fans concerned only about how his NL Rookie of Year vote might be split by teammate Yasiel Puig's presence on the ballot.

Ricky Nolasco is 4-1 and 2.95 as a Dodger, and L.A. has won eight of 10 starts since his trade from Miami on July 6. That .800 winning percentage might be difficult to avoid, when you consider that the team has a .774 since Nolasco's acquisition.

The Dodgers are 28-5 for an .848 winning percentage in the second half, and are 45-10 for a .728 in the two-month period from June 22 through August 22, during which time they've gone from exactly 9 ½ games behind the Diamondbacks to 9 ½ in front.

L.A.'s starters lead the majors with a 3.13 ERA and the staff overall ranks third behind Pittsburgh and Atlanta at 3.24. The bullpen's 38 saves is good enough for third in the NL; its 3.47 ERA ranks fifth in the league. Kenley Jansen hasn't blown a save since June and has a second half ERA of 1.04. Opposing batters -- if you can call them that -- are hitting .071 against him since the break.

Brian Wilson finally debuted in Blue Thursday and looked good doing it. The Dodgers are better with him than they were without him, and they are better today than they were yesterday.

They're better now than they have been in years -- in maybe 25 years -- since the last time the City of Dodgers was graced with a World Series. I make no promises about that; about nothing concerning October, actually, because baseball starts from scratch after the final out of the regular season on September 29.

The history books are filled with lessons about supposed teams of destiny who faltered a game or a round short of the Series, and include examples of wild card entries grabbing the ring, including a team then known as the Florida Marlins.

But the Dodgers are going to win the National League West. Their magic number is 27, which means that any combination of L.A. victories and Arizona losses totaling 27 makes them division champs. For example, if the currently 75-52 Dodgers win 20 of their final 35 games (that's .571 ball) to conclude 2013 at 95-67, the Dbacks would have to go 30-6 just to tie them.

It's all over but the flag-raising. We'll save the term "pennant-raising" for mid-October, if the Dodger faithful is so fortunate. But you can stick a fork in the NL West this afternoon, because it's done.

Follow Howard Cole and LAWeekly on Twitter.

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