Dodgers await Diamondbacks for NL West showdown

LOS ANGELES — The old guard of the National League West will meet the potential successor as September will be ushered in this weekend with a four-game showdown at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers have won five consecutive NL West titles, but the Diamondbacks are poised to make a change at the top, and a weekend series in Los Angeles, starting Thursday, figures to set the tone for the drama ahead.

The Diamondbacks have held the top spot in the National League West in all but two days in August. And since Aug. 8, Arizona has held at least a share of the division lead every day.

The Dodgers have gone through an inconsistent second half and were 4 1/2 games out of first place as recently as Friday, after they were swept in a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals last week.

But they are on a tear now, entering the opener of the series on a five-game winning streak to match a season-best run.

“The fact that we’re going into the next series against Arizona on a five-game winning streak and on a high, that’s huge,” said Los Angeles catcher Yasmani Grandal, who hit one of the three Dodgers home runs Wednesday. “(The Diamondbacks) are playing some pretty good baseball but it’s the end of the year. … If they sleep on us we’ll be able to go ahead and take first place.”

Don’t expect the Diamondbacks to take anything for granted this weekend, not after they had lost four of five before winning handily Wednesday night at San Francisco behind the pitching of Zack Godley, who will not face the Dodgers.

When the teams meet for the opener of the series on Thursday, the Diamondbacks will be on top in the NL West, with the Colorado Rockies a half-game back and the Dodgers one game back of Arizona in a tightly bunched group.

“This is really what it’s all about,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said, according to mlb.com. “… We’ve talked about these moments, we’re prepared for these moments, and I think these guys are ready for this next set of challenges.”

The Dodgers will have left-hander Rich Hill on the mound while the Diamondbacks will counter with a lefty of their own in Robbie Ray.

Hill (6-4, 3.50 ERA) pitched a scoreless six innings against the San Diego Padres in a victory on Fiday and has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. He appears to have shaken off blister issues that have plagued him in each of the past two seasons.

Looming large, though, is Hill’s 0-5 record in seven starts against Arizona as a member of the Dodgers. The veteran has a 1.29 WHIP in those seven outings. Hill is 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA in two starts against the Diamondbacks this yearut both those starts were early in the season.

Ray (3-2, 4.73) has kept his opponents in relative check over his last six starts with a 3.66 ERA, but all of those ended in no-decisions. In fact, the Diamondbacks are just 1-7 in Ray’s last eight starts and he hasn’t picked up a victory since June 27.

Ray also spent time on the disabled list this year with an oblique issue that cost him two months in the first half. The Diamondbacks were 4-2 over Ray’s first six starts of the season.

Ray is 6-3 lifetime against the Dodgers in 13 starts with a 2.69 ERA, and those six victories are his most against any one team.

An expected Zack Greinke-Clayton Kershaw matchup Friday was nixed when the Dodgers moved Kershaw’s next start to Saturday’s third game in the series.