Everything you need to know about the pivotal Rockies-Dodgers series which could decide the NL West title
The series that could decide the NL West starts Monday night in L.A.
The Rockies at the moment lead the Dodgers by a half-game in the National League West ( ). It so happens that those two teams will get together in Los Angeles for a critical three-game series that starts Monday night. Here's how the scheduled pitching matchups break down:
- Game 1 (10:10 p.m. ET): Jon Gray vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu
- Game 2 (10:10 p.m. ET): Kyle Freeland vs. Clayton Kershaw
- Game 3: (10:10 p.m. ET): Tyler Anderson vs. Walker Buehler
Now let's run down some things to know about one of the biggest regular-season series of 2018:
1. The Dodgers are heavily favored
As noted, the Dodgers at this writing are trailing the Rockies by a hair's breadth, but the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) still heavily favors L.A. moving forward. Coming into Monday's slate, SportsLine gives the Dodgers a 79.8 percent chance of winning the division. That's in large measure because the Dodgers have been significantly better than the Rockies when it comes to the fundamental underlying indicators.
To wit, the Dodgers right now boast an NL-best run differential of plus-146, while the Rockies check in at plus-one. That means at the level of runs scored and runs allowed, the Dodgers have played like a team with a record of 90-60 (i.e., eight games better than their actual record, and the Rockies have basically been a .500 team. Turn to the BaseRuns system available at Fangraphs, which attempts to model a team's run-scoring and run-prevention capabilities at the plate-appearance level, and you get a very similar story. As such, SportsLine also heavily leans Dodgers in each of these three upcoming head-to-head games.
2. The Rockies can move the needle in a big way by taking two of three
Obviously, though, the Rockies are still very much in the mix. Insofar as those odds of winning the NL West are concerned, if the Rockies are able to win two of three in L.A., then the Dodgers' chances of taking the division drop from 79.8 percent to 52 percent -- basically a coin-flip. The Dodgers would still project as the superior team moving forward, but the Rockies would leave town with a 1 1/2-game lead.
3. The Dodgers have an easier remaining schedule
The other reason the outlook is rosier for the Dodgers? Take a look at the remaining schedules after this series is done. First, the Rockies:
- at ARI (three games)
- PHI (4)
- WAS (3)
And now the Dodgers:
- SD (3)
- at ARI (3)
- at SF (3)
They share the D-backs in common, but for the other six the Rockies get two teams with winning records, while the Dodgers get two teams that are a combined 40 games under .500 (and if anything the Giants' overall record undersells how bad they are right now). That's offset to an extent by the home-road breakdown, but this is an easier final lap for Los Angeles.
4. The Dodgers go in holding the tiebreaker.
If the two teams wind up tied for the division lead, then they'll play a one-game tiebreaker. The team with the best head-to-head record will host. Right now the Dodgers lead the season series 9-7 over Colorado. Obviously, a Rockies sweep, however unlikely, flips that script.
5. The Dodgers can join elite company if they wind up winning the division.
The Dodgers have won the last five NL West titles. If they manage to fend off the Rockies (and still-alive Diamondbacks) this year, they'll become just the third team to win six or more consecutive division titles. The Bobby Cox Braves, of course, won 11 straight and 14 straight if you throw out the unfinished 1994 season, and the Joe Torre Yankees took nine straight AL East flags. Right now, the Dodgers are tied with the 2007-11 Phillies and 1995-99 Indians, who also won five straight.
6. There's still the second NL wild-card berth to think about.
The Dodgers are tied with the Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot at the moment. As such, it's a safe assumption that the NL West runner-up, barring collapse, will be in the mix for that final playoff berth. That means this big series at Chavez Ravine should give us some clarity across two NL playoff races.
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