Mookie Betts injury forces Los Angeles Dodgers to worry about one National League team

Multiple injuries to the Los Angeles Dodgers should have them concerned about the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few days, the Los Angeles Dodgers have suffered two injuries to key players that would have sunk a lot of seasons if they’d happened to other clubs. Both shortstop Mookie Betts and starter (and huge off-season signing) Yoshinobu Yamamoto are on the IL, and figure to be out for some time, but neither is reportedly season-ending.

The loss of these two players is similar to the Atlanta Braves being without their top starter in Spencer Strider, and the reigning NL MVP, Ronald Acuña Jr. The difference is that Atlanta will not be getting their guys back later this season. There’s also the fact that they’re trailing the Philadelphia Phillies by eight games in the NL East.

The Dodgers are 46-29 on the season and hold a nine-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. When the injuries cropped up for L.A., some went straight to the standings to see if there is a team in the West that could use this as an opportunity to un-seat the Dodgers from the top spot in the division. With the lead that they’ve built, they should be ok in the West.

However, there is one team that could stand to benefit over the coming weeks.

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Milwaukee Brewers are mashing

Milwaukee Brewers
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers lost both of their aces over the off-season, trading Corbin Burnes to the Baltimore Orioles, and learning they’d be without Brandon Woodruff in 2024 after he underwent shoulder surgery last October. They’re also down their most well-known reliever in Devin Williams, who has missed the season thus far with a stress fracture in his back, though he is starting to ramp up towards a return.

Milwaukee also saw their manager for the past nine years, Craig Counsell, leave for a division rival in the Chicago Cubs. People were not high on Milwaukee heading into this season, and for good reason.

The Brewers lead the NL Central, despite these losses, by 6.5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals. Their 43-30 record is just two back of the Dodgers, and that could create an opening for Milwaukee to do something that no team in the Central–in either league–has done to this point. That would be securing their way out of the wild-card round with the new expanded playoffs and getting a few extra days off before facing their opponent in the postseason.

Would this be good news for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The jury is still out on whether the few day break actually helps the teams that earn it, or whether it’s a detriment to how they play in an already shortened five-game series. Three of the four teams that had the bye last year didn’t advance to the Championship Series. Those three teams were the Dodgers, Braves, and Orioles. The one team that had the bye and went on was the Houston Astros, who have made it to seven straight ALCS, so they’re a bit more battle tested than most clubs.

One big factor that could work in Milwaukee’s favor is that they’re a pitching factory. When one player goes down, they have another waiting for their opportunity. The O’s went down due to inexperience, the Dodgers didn’t have enough healthy starters, and the Braves ran into the Phillies for the second consecutive postseason. The Brewers have some experience, should be able to weather most injuries, and wouldn’t be playing the Phillies in the NLDS.

The way the bracket is currently set up, the Phillies hold the top spot in the NL with a 49-24 record, with L.A. and Milwaukee holding the other two division leads, giving them the second and third seeds. If the Dodgers were to switch seeds with Milwaukee while Betts and Yamamoto are out, that would leave Los Angeles to face what could be the hottest team in baseball, or at least in the NL, in the sixth seed. If they won that series, then they’d face Milwaukee.

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If Milwaukee were to slide into the number two seed, they’d avoid facing the final wild-card team, while a potential matchup with the Dodgers wouldn’t have L.A. lined up with their starters, which would leave the Brewers with home field advantage and their best chance to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2018.

The last four times that Milwaukee has made the postseason, the team that knocked them out went on to play in the World Series, and three of those times the team won the whole thing. Last year it was the Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost to the Texas Rangers in five games. In 2021, the Atlanta Braves. 2020 was the Dodgers, and in 2019 the Washington Nationals took down Houston in a dramatic seven-game series.

On the one hand, the Dodgers may not want to play any extra postseason games if they don’t have to, but on the other, if Milwaukee were to be there waiting for them in the NLDS and L.A. was able to come away victorious, then maybe that is the little bit of pixie dust they need to bring home their first full-season championship since 1988.

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