Best Stretch Run Race: NL West

Photo Credit: Left to right: Clayton Kershaw (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports), Paul Goldschmidt (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports), Brandon Crawford (John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports), Charlie Blackmon (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports), Wil Myers (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports).

By Rich Daniels

If pennant races are your thing, keep your eye on the National League West Division. Of the five teams in the division, four are within five games of the lead and two are currently tied at the top. And with four different plans to get to the finish line, there's a real excitement to be had in this race.

The Dodgers

They stole the headlines with the acquisition of a new double-play combination in Manny Machado and Brian Dozier at the non-waiver trading deadline. Add them to Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, postseason hero of the past Justin Turner, and breakout sensation Max Muncy and there is a definite star power angle being played in Chavez Ravine.

The Diamondbacks 

Arizona is getting healthy with Robbie Ray and Steven Souza coming back from the disabled list. Jake Lamb isn't coming back from injury this year but the Snakes acquired Eduardo Escobar to replace him. All-Stars Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin lead the pitching staff that has a ton of pennant race experience from last season. AJ Pollack and Clay Buchholz are healthy and producing making for an interesting mix of resources targeting October. 

The Rockies 

Colorado is deep in the hunt but chose to stay pat with what they have for the stretch drive. Only a trade for reliever Seunghwan Oh was in the cards at the trading deadline. That's because the Rockies have the luxury of all kinds of depth between the big league roster and Triple-A. The major league roster is led by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story at the plate and Wade Davis and young starter Kyle Freeland on the mound. The Rox will contend as long as their youthful side of the roster continues to produce. Their approach offers hope for today and tomorrow.

The Giants 

They stand just five games back in the division standings. They didn't make any big moves at the trading deadline and have to absorb the loss of starter Johnny Cueto to Tommy John surgery. They've added a few young players from the minors to a core that still has the experience of being on two or three World Series winners or past stretch drives with other teams. The hope is that Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford can combine their extensive pennant race experience with the assembled newcomers to make yet another run. 

Superstars, young players working to prove themselves, comebacks and wily veterans. The National League West race has it all. With the Dodgers and Diamondbacks locked atop the division, Colorado breathing down their necks just two games back and the footsteps of the Giants being heard just five games back, this race promises to look more like a brawl in a broom closet. All four teams have a legitimate shot at the division title or a wild card slot. 

So keep your favorite beverage and snacks close by and plan on staying up late to watch some of these Pacific and Mountain time zone games. It's sure to be a taste of playoff intensity in August and September.

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