The Dodgers lead the San Francisco Giants by 6.5 games in the National League West Division, but there is plenty of season left to play.
If the club wants to keep its division lead and make the playoffs, the Dodgers have several keys to their success for the rest of the year.READ MORE: CBS2 Investigates: Thieves Strip Nearly 40 Catalytic Converters From City Vehicles In North Hollywood
Here are the seven most important keys to the Dodgers making a serious run at the World Series.
7. Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley have to lead the team.
Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are two veteran leaders Dodgers will need to guide the team through September.
The Dodgers traded for Rollins in the offseason with the hope that he would bring leadership and postseason experience to the team, and despite a subpar first half of the season for Rollins, the 36-year-old shortstop has come to life after the All-Star break.
Rollins has 13 home runs, 41 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and has raised his batting average to .222.
The 2006 NL MVP won the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in five games.
Utley was also on that team and was a vital to the Phillies’ World Series title.
The Dodgers do not need the same type of production that Utley and Rollins both gave the Phillies in 2008, but they are going to need their postseason experience and veteran leadership.
Manager Don Mattingly has said that Howie Kendrick will be the start at second base when he returns from the disabled list, so Utley in particular will most likely have to help the Dodgers off the bench.
Rollins and Utley should be clubhouse leaders when the postseason begins, and the rest of the Dodgers should follow in their footsteps.
6. Mat Latos, Alex Wood and Brett Anderson have to help Kershaw and Greinke.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will be the Dodgers’ 1-2 punch when the postseason begins, but the fact is that the two aces cannot pitch every game.
The club is going to need help from pitchers Mat Latos, Alex Wood and Brett Anderson for the remainder of the regular season, as well as in the postseason if the team is going to reach the World Series.
When the postseason begins, the Dodgers will likely be using a three-man rotation, meaning whomever pitches better among Wood, Anderson and Latos will earn the third playoff rotation slot.
In the meantime, however, the Dodgers are hopeful to rest Kershaw and Greinke as much as possible before the postseason begins.
The Dodgers have announced that Mike Bolsinger will start Friday, creating an extra day of rest for Kershaw and Greinke. There have been no announcements on whether the team will skip one of Kershaw or Greinke’s starts, but if the division lead remains strong, all signs would point to the Dodgers resting the pair at least once before the postseason.
5. The Dodgers cannot get complacent.
After completing a sweep of the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers find themselves 6.5 games ahead of the rival Giants in the NL West.
While this is a comfortable lead with less than a month remaining in the season, the Dodgers cannot get complacent with this lead.
The Giants have won three World Series titles in the past five seasons, and it is safe to say that they are certainly not out of the race for the division.
The Dodgers have remaining series against the San Diego Padres, the Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Diamondbacks again, Rockies again, Giants, and finally close the season with a home series against the Padres.
After being no-hit by Cubs on Sunday, Dodgers’ chances to win NL West “fell” to 91%. They are back up to 98% after 3-game sweep of Giants
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 3, 2015
The Giants have an extremely easy schedule, however, as they do not play an opponent besides the Dodgers with a record of over .500 for the rest of the season.
A 6.5 game lead in the NL West is comfortable for the Dodgers, but to count the Giants out of the race at this point would just be ignorant.
4. Joc Pederson has to start hitting again.
Since the All-Star break, Joc Pederson is hitting just .159, with four home runs and eight RBI.
Before the All-Star break, Pederson hit .230 with 20 home runs and 40 RBI.
Whether it was participating in the All-Star game or the Home Run Derby, something is eating at Pederson.
He has not been the same player since the break, and it has prompted manager Don Mattingly to bench the young center-fielder. However, when Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez both went to the DL, Pederson has seen more playing time.
He has just 17 hits since the All-Star break and has struck out 40 times. The Dodgers need Pederson to get back to the power hitter he was during the first half of the season or they are in trouble for the postseason.
Pederson did hit the game-winning home run against the Giants during the second game of the series, which could be a sign of things to come for the young rookie.
He is just 23, and Dodgers fans should limit their expectations of Pederson.READ MORE: Cold Weather Alert Issued For Lancaster Area
That being said, for an All-Star to have 17 hits since the break is absurd. He is working with hitting coach Mark Mcgwire to keep his swing shorter, but Pederson is going to have to do more than that if the Dodgers are going to make a run at the World Series.
With Yasiel Puig’s hamstring an uncertainty, the Dodgers are going to need Pederson to pickup the slack in the outfield and regain his earlier form.
3. Howie Kendrick, Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig have to return from the DL at full strength.
Howie Kendrick, Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig are on the 15-day disabled list.
All three are scheduled to return at some point in September. The latest update on Howie Kendrick is that he was unable to run at full speed as of Monday.
Hernandez was most recently placed on the DL Sunday and does not have an update on his recovery yet.
Yasiel Puig was placed on the DL with a hamstring injury Aug. 28 but has already begun rehabbing. He is rehabbing on a treadmill and in water as Monday, according to the Dodgers website.
The team will need all three of these players for their postseason run. While the team did trade for Utley, Kendrick is without a doubt going to be the starter when he returns from the DL.
Kendrick is second on the team with 124 hits and has a .296 batting average and 49 RBI.
Puig’s defensive presence as well as offensive versatility make him an invaluable asset to the Dodgers, and the club is optimistic he will be back before the season’s end.
Hernandez has been an extremely pleasant surprise this year, hitting .308 with six HR and 21 RBI.
2. Chris Hatcher, Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan must be consistent
Chris Hatcher was a centerpiece in the trade that sent Dee Gordon from the Dodgers to the Miami Marlins.
However, the reliever faced early struggles during the first half of the year, but since returning from the DL, he has been stellar.
Since the All-Star break, Hatcher is 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched.
The team acquired relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan from the Braves at the trade deadline to shore up the bullpen.
Since the trade, Johnson has been abysmal with the Dodgers, going 0-2 with a 12.66 ERA in just 10.2 innings pitched.
However, the former closer once racked up back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and 2013.
While Johnson has the fastball and the movement to be successful, he has not found his location since joining the Dodgers. The team is going to need him to be an image of what he was in Atlanta prior to the trade, where in 48 innings pitched, he went 2-3 with a 2.25 ERA and even collected nine saves.
Luis Avilan, the left-hander the Dodgers acquired in the big deadline deal, has pitched 8.2 innings so far for the Dodgers, where he has a 4.15 ERA. He has allowed four earned runs in those 8.2 innings, as well as just four hits.
Avilan is holding opposing batters to a .143 batting average as a member of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers bullpen is going to be anchored by Kenley Jansen at the back-end, but if the team looks to have any success beyond the regular season, it is going to be on the these three pitchers to ensure that the bullpen can get the job done.
1. Kershaw & Greinke have to keep pitching like Cy Young Award winners
The NL Cy Young Award is going to be a tough award to hand out.
Clayton Kershaw is 12-6 with a 2.18 ERA this season, and in 194 innings pitched, the Dodgers lefty has set a new career-high for strikeouts in a season, with 251.
The last Dodger to tally a season strikeout total as high as Kershaw’s was Sandy Koufax, who in 1966 struck out 317 batters.
Zack Greinke is 15-3 with a 1.59 ERA, and in 186.2 innings pitched, Greinke has 169 strikeouts and a 0.85 WHIP.
The only others competing for the Cy Young Award are Pirates ace Gerrit Cole (15-8, 2.64 ERA), Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (16-7, 2.96 ERA) and Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta (17-6, 2.11 ERA).
The Dodgers 6.5-game lead in the NL West is owed first and foremost to the incredible pitching duo of Greinke and Kershaw.
With Kershaw and Greinke’s success goes the Dodgers’ success.
In his career, Clayton Kershaw is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in eight postseason starts.MORE NEWS: Police Offer Rewards For Information Leading To Arrests In Rash Of Jefferson Park Hit-And-Runs
Zack Greinke is 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA in his postseason career in seven career starts.