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Dodgers would appear to have a playoff pitching edge

SportsBaseballHouston AstrosLos Angeles DodgersClayton KershawZack GreinkeNational League Central

The Dodgers could have a huge playoff edge, and it has nothing to do with home field.

With one month to play, the National League playoff field looks like this: The Dodgers as NL West champions, the Atlanta Braves as NL East champions, and the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals from the NL Central — one as division champion, the other two as wild cards.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals are not dead in the wild-card race, but not close.

Odds are that the Dodgers would open postseason play against one of the NL Central teams — either the wild-card winner, which would use its best available starter in the one-game playoff, or the division champion, which might need its ace on the last day or two to avoid that one-game playoff.

The Dodgers would have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke rested and ready to start three games — maybe four — in a best-of-five series. Of the starting pitchers on the five projected NL playoff teams, the two lowest earned-run averages belong to Kershaw (1.72) and Greinke (2.86).

"Kershaw is the elite of the elite," Chicago Cubs Manager Dale Sveum said. "Greinke is right there behind him."

As an NL Central manager, Sveum has seen more than enough of Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo of the Reds, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett of the Pirates, and Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals.

"You're still talking about guys that can throw a shutout on any given day," Sveum said.

But it is difficult enough to start a playoff series against Kershaw and Greinke, let alone with an ace tied behind your back.

The week in weird

On Monday, Forbes published an article claiming the Houston Astros would turn a $99 million profit this year, the highest in baseball history. On Thursday morning, Forbes published another article — by a different author — calling the original article "grossly inaccurate." On Thursday afternoon, Forbes published a third article, in which the author of the original story admitted he made mistakes with numbers but accused the Astros of some funny math of their own.

The Astros found nothing funny in the whole affair. The team has stripped its roster of usable veterans and sold them for prospect parts, hoping to win two or three years from now. In the meantime, with the Astros on pace to become the second team in major league history to lose 106 games in three consecutive years, the last thing Houston fans want to read is how landmark futility equals windfall profits.

The Astros rebutted the original article, without countering with numbers of their own. Major League Baseball routinely jousts with Forbes, because teams do not release financial data. But what raised eyebrows at MLB headquarters was this comment from Astros President Reid Ryan, to the Houston Chronicle: "We're going to have expenses that are higher than our revenues, and that doesn't make [the team] profitable."

The Astros are expected to take in more than $40 million from MLB this season, before selling a single ticket or collecting a penny in local radio and television rights fees. When the player payroll is about $26 million on opening day — and about half that now — the Astros ought to be able to defend their rebuilding program without defying common sense.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsBaseballHouston AstrosLos Angeles DodgersClayton KershawZack GreinkeNational League Central
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