Despite a series of headline-grabbing trades and off-field maneuvers, the Los Angeles Dodgers have struggled on the field through most of September.
With just three wins in their last 10 games, the Dodgers would appear to be slipping from playoff contention. But a few timely wins, combined with a mediocre playoff race, has the team right in the thick of it. On Saturday, Juan Rivera helped the Dodgers to one of those victories and the game-changing moment of the week.
In the third game of a four-game series against the wild-card leading St. Louis Cardinals, L.A. entered the ninth inning trailing 3-2. After two quick outs by Cardinals closer Jason Motte, the Dodgers began to rally. Andre Either singled and pinch-runner Dee Gordon stole second and scored on a double by Luis Cruz. Elian Herrera then ran for Cruz, bringing Rivera to the plate to pinch-hit for A.J. Ellis.
Rivera’s liner went off the glove of second baseman Daniel Descalso, scoring Herrera from second and giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win. It also moved the Dodgers into a tie for the NL's second wild-card berth.
Rivera was ready for his opportunity off the bench.
“Just be ready. That's what I keep telling myself,” Rivera told MLB.com. “I learned how to do this when I was with the Angels. Playing, not playing. Playing, not playing. I kept taking my swings and stayed as ready as I could be.”
“This was pretty big. It was definitely one of our most exciting games of the season so far,” center fielder Matt Kemp said. “That was an all-around good team win for us.”
The Dodgers weren’t able to keep the momentum going, however. On Sunday, the Cardinals scored three runs in the 12th inning to squeak out a 5-2 win and move one game in front with 15 games remaining.
With the Braves appearing to be locked into the first NL wild card, it appears the second spot will be a tight race between as many as six teams, with the Cardinals and Dodgers the front-runners. However, the schedule favors St. Louis.
The Dodgers begin a nine-game road trip in Washington on Tuesday against the NL East-leading Nationals. Then they face the NL Central-leading Reds in Cincinnati and travel to San Diego, where the Padres are shockingly in the hunt.
The Cardinals get to face the last-place Houston Astros at home before visiting the Chicago Cubs this weekend. The Astros and Cubs are a combined 81 games under .500.
As the Philadelphia Phillies make a surprising, late push for the postseason, they have a former playoff hero to thank for sparking the team.
Jimmy Rollins, the team’s stalwart shortstop for the last 11 years, is swinging the bat like his old self. Last week, Rollins batted .393 with three home runs, six RBIs, five steals and nine run scored.
The Phillies swept the Miami Marlins last week to move back into playoff contention. They lost three of four to the terrible Astros on the weekend but still have won seven of their last 10 games. Philadelphia is only four games behind in the wild-card race.