By Jon Weisman
We’re truly on the watch now. With the magic number to clinch the National League West down to two, the Dodgers could be division champions once they throw their final pitch tonight.
The Dodgers should have an idea of how imminent a clinch is before they take the field in Colorado tonight. San Francisco is playing Oakland in a 1:05 p.m. game, with none other than Barry Zito making the start for the A’s against old teammate Tim Hudson. An Oakland victory ensures no worse than a tie for the NL West title for Los Angeles, but Zito gave up four runs in his first two innings to put the A’s in a 4-0 hole.
In any case, the Dodgers need two of four outcomes involving themselves and the Giants to go their way this weekend, in order to have things wrapped up before their plane touches down in San Francisco for next week’s four-game series. The four teams play simultaneously Sunday.
What we know for sure already is that the NL West champion will play the NL East champion in one National League Division Series beginning October 9, while the NL Central champion plays the NL Wild Card in the other NLDS. That’s because neither the Dodgers nor the Mets, nor any other team outside the Central, can finish with the best record in the NL.
What remains to be seen is which coast will host the opening two games of the East-West NLDS. It will begin in New York unless the Dodgers can finish ahead of the Mets, who won the season series between the two teams, four games to three, the day that Zack Greinke’s 45 2/3-inning scoreless streak ended.
But just to avoid counting any chickens or other fowl, there’s this: NLDS Game 1 will take place in San Francisco if the Giants finish 9-0 or 9-1, and the Dodgers finish 0-9 or 1-9, and the Mets finish 0-9, and the Nationals finish 10-0.