For all the talk about the Washington Nationals and their disappointing season thus far, there's another highly touted National League team that's also in danger of missing the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have dropped the first five games of what's been an ugly road trip so far. They still lead the NL West by 1 1/2 games over San Francisco, but the wild card is looking less and less like a viable backup plan if the Dodgers don't win the division.
Los Angeles has had an unusual schedule lately, with off days last Monday and Thursday bookending a two-game set at Oakland. The Dodgers are also off this Monday before wrapping up their trip with three games at Cincinnati.
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''We have this strange schedule right now,'' shortstop Jimmy Rollins said during the series at Oakland. ''Start and go, start and go. In September, you don't want that. You want to start running downhill.''
Scheduling is one aspect of baseball administration that's a lot more complicated than it looks. The collective bargaining agreement covers all sorts of scheduling issues, like doubleheaders, off days and what time games should start.
Beginning with its second game of the season, teams are not supposed to be scheduled more than two open days in any seven-day period. The Dodgers will have had three in eight.
Off days can help a team with struggling pitchers. Mat Latos allowed 10 earned runs over his most recent two starts, and Los Angeles skipped him this past week.
On the flip side, closer Kenley Jansen had not pitched in a week when he entered Sunday's game in the ninth inning with a one-run lead. He allowed the Astros to tie it with two outs, and Houston eventually won 3-2 in 10.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
After more players spoke out about fan safety this past week, that issue could be a prominent one this offseason. Fans in both Detroit and Chicago were hospitalized in the last three days after being hit by foul balls.
Justin Verlander of the Tigers was among those calling for significant changes to protect fans from balls and bats, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon implored fans close to the field to stay alert.
The New York Mets swept Colorado and lead the NL East by five games over the Nationals, but like so many other teams lately, the Mets had a hard time with Carlos Gonzalez. The Colorado outfielder homered twice in that three-game series, and he's now gone deep 17 times in his last 30 games.
Gonzalez has slugged .811 in those games, but the Rockies went 9-21.
The AL batting race right now is an illusion. Jason Kipnis of Cleveland leads with a .321 average, but Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is looming at .367 with only a few plate appearances short of what's needed so far to qualify.
Cabrera is 17 for 34 since returning from a calf injury.
Hector Olivera's arrival in the majors appears imminent. Olivera has been slowed by a left hamstring injury, but he's expected to be the third baseman for the Atlanta Braves once he's called up.
Olivera signed a $62.5 million, six-year deal with the Dodgers this year, but the Cuban infielder was traded to the Braves last month.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Mike Fiers of Houston gets the nod for his no-hitter against the Dodgers on Friday, in which he threw 134 pitches, the most by any major leaguer this year. But Yoenis Cespedes gets an honorable mention for his three-homer, seven-RBI show for the Mets on that same night.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.