Dodgers aim to wrap up NL West versus Giants

LOS ANGELES -- The wobbly Los Angeles Dodgers return home Friday with a chance to clinch a fifth consecutive National League West title, knowing the opportunity to rest some tired regulars is on the horizon.

The San Francisco Giants, having been left with little to play for much of the season, arrive in Los Angeles knowing they can still make their rival squirm as much as possible.

When the 2017 schedule was announced, the late-season three-game series between the Dodgers and Giants that begins Friday at Dodger Stadium figured to carry plenty of drama. Then the Dodgers went on a historic run over the first four months, while San Francisco embarked on one of the worst starts in franchise history.

The Giants will carry a 60-93 record into the start of their final road trip of the season, needing three victories over their final nine games to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1985 and just the second ever for the club going back to 1883, when they were the New York Gothams.

"It's been a tough year, and we don't like being in this role, this, 'You can be a spoiler,'" Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "Despite that, it's easy to get in that shutdown mode when you're out of it."

The Dodgers' magic number for winning the division is down to one, so the Giants will have a tough task in trying to prevent their rival from clinching. But San Francisco can still cause problems as the Dodgers work on the best record in the National League, and home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series that comes with it.

Los Angeles hold a 4 1/2-game lead on the Washington Nationals for best NL record.

And with home-field advantage in the World Series now being decided by best overall record, the Dodgers also have something to play for in that area. They are one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians for best record in baseball.

But best records and a World Series spot should be the furthest thing from the Dodgers' collective minds this weekend. Once sitting high above it all with a 91-36 record, the Dodgers have lost 20 out of their last 26 games, and in less than a month have relinquished their role as runaway title favorites.

"Let's band together, and let's understand what's at stake, because this is a golden opportunity," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "At the end of the season, when that last out is made, we can all look back and know we left everything we possibly could on the field for each other."

The Dodgers' offense has been inconsistent since late August and the bullpen has been worse of late. Plenty of players appear in dire need of rest, and Roberts soon will be left to decide if downtime is more valuable than a best-record chase.

With ailing starters like Justin Turner (right thumb contusion) and Corey Seager (sore right elbow and left ankle), it remains to be seen how Roberts will handle his starting lineup Friday. One thing that is known is that left-hander Rich Hill (10-8, 3.60 ERA) will be his starter for the series opener against the Giants.

Hill is 1-0 against the Giants this season in two starts, with a 1.69 ERA, and is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA over 60 2/3 innings against San Francisco in 10 career starts.

The Giants will counter Friday with right-hander Jeff Samardzija (9-14, 4.42). In his lone start against the Dodgers this season, Samardzija fired eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in a May 3 no-decision. In his career, Samardzija has faced the Dodgers seven times (five starts) and has a 1/3 record with a 3.51 ERA (33 1/3 innings).

If the Dodgers can clinch the division Friday, their celebration would come on a night when the club is celebrating the 90th birthday of former manager Tommy Lasorda.

"That's a good birthday present for him, but you know what he wants, he wants that championship," Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen told reporters after the Thursday game at Philadelphia. "But we'll start by giving him (a division title) first."
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