By the end of games played on Wednesday, September 24 the Dodger may have clinched the NL West. Or the Snakes may have pulled into a tie with the Dodgers. Most likely something in between these extremes will occur. A lot can happen over the next three days.
The Snakes magic number is 10. This is a slight problem for them since they only have 7 games left, meaning that even if they win out ( unlikely ) they would still need plenty of help from the Dodgers to clinch or even to tie. But these facts mean very little to a panicky Dodger fan who is convinced the team has entered a death spiral after losing 2 of 3 to the Giants over the weekend. The nature of the loss Sunday just seems to confirm the doom, the dread, the gray shroud of mediocrity creeping over the team. They will never again get a hit with runners in scoring position. The bullpen can never again be trusted. Every excellent start will henceforth be wasted. These are the pseudo-facts that threaten to establish residence in my mind. But they are all lies! Yesterday has very little to do with today and tomorrow.
The Dodgers have 6 games left. The Snakes have 7 games left. If the teams were to finish tied they would play a single game to decide the division. So I will count this potential playoff game as a future game as well, with the obvious disclaimer that it probably won't be played. Therefore there are 14 games left that matter to deciding the NL West. If 10 of 14 go the Snakes' way, they are division champs. If just 5 of 14 go the Dodgers' way, they are division champs. If all of these games were coin flips the Dodgers would be in a strong position, though the Snakes would still have a chance of winning.
A Dodger fan's hope for the next four days should be that the magic number is reduced by 3, that is at least 3 of the next 7 contests that matter go the Dodgers' way. This goal has the advantage of being attainable no matter what the Snakes do. If the Dodgers can sweep a poor Padres team at Dodger Stadium then the goal is achieved. If the Dodgers can win 2 of 3 at home and the Snakes drop just 1 of 4 in St. Louis the goal is achieved. Nothing is certain yet but the future still is bright. If I had to predict each series I would pick the Snakes to split with St. Louis and the Dodgers to take 2 of 3 from the Padres. This would take the magic number down to 1.
It feels like a disaster to most Dodger fans when the team drops a game in the standings to the Snakes. But it will be a disaster for Snakes fans if the Snakes drop a full game to the Dodgers over any of the coming days. It's a lot better to be a Dodger fan right now. I'm trying not to forget that as I wonder how the Dodger failed to score in the first inning yesterday.