The Los Angeles Dodgers return home Monday as National League West champions, facing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of an extended five-game series, which also is the start of an eight-game homestand.
When the teams met at Arizona on Tuesday, the Dodgers earned a 4-0 victory to wrap up their ninth division title in the past 10 seasons. A day later, though, Los Angeles' main weakness was exposed when closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a game-ending home run to the Diamondbacks' Sergio Alcantara.
Kimbrel has been on a rocky ride in his first season as the Dodgers' closer, blowing five saves, getting tagged with a loss six times and posting a 3.96 ERA in 52 1/3 innings.
Other late-inning relief options like right-handers Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol have struggled with injuries. With the playoffs fast approaching, the Dodgers remain in search of answers for the back end of their bullpen.
Despite the bullpen troubles, the Dodgers not only clinched the division title, they also reached the 100-win mark Saturday with a victory at San Francisco. Los Angeles has won at least 100 games in each of the past three full seasons and four times in the last five full seasons.
"Every team goes through adversities, but to have a consistent level of play to win 100 games to this point is quite the accomplishment," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "To win 100 games, you've got to do a lot of things right over the course of a long season. That's kind of the bar, the standard we have. That's what I'm most proud of."
The Dodgers will send left-hander Clayton Kershaw to the mound Monday. He was the winning pitcher in the division clincher, giving up just two hits over seven innings against Arizona. After missing a month because of his latest back issue, Kershaw has a 1.50 ERA in three September starts.
In 40 career starts against the D-backs, Kershaw is 19-11 with a 2.73 ERA. He's attempting to win 20 games against a fourth different team.
The Diamondbacks will counter with right-hander Merrill Kelly (12-6, 3.01 ERA), who opposed Kershaw last week and gave up three runs in five innings while taking the loss. Kelly is 0-8 lifetime against the Dodgers in 11 starts and has a 5.81 ERA.
Arizona dropped a 6-1 decision to the San Diego Padres on Sunday and has lost nine of its last 12 games. The D-backs are just 3-11 against the Dodgers this season.
Arizona nearly was shut out for the fourth time in its last five defeats before scraping together a ninth-inning run Sunday on a Ketel Marte sacrifice fly.
Against Padres starters Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish over the weekend, the D-backs were held to one run over 19 innings. They had just one hit in six innings against Darvish. Now they have to face Kershaw on Monday.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said after Sunday's game. "We've seen Darvish for a long time. We've had some games where we've grinded him down and had him out of the game, but we weren't very efficient."
--Field Level Media