What would it take for the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the West?

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With their series sweep tonight, the Diamondbacks have just trimmed the Dodgers' NL West lead in half in less than two weeks:

Thru play Friday, August 25:
LAD 91-36
ARZ 71-58 (21 GB)

Thru play Wednesday, September 6:
LAD 92-47
ARI 82-58 (10.5 GB)

This remarkable run has raised the question in many fans' minds: Is the division still up for grabs? If the Dbacks can make up 10.5 games on the Dodgers in 12 days, can they do it again in 25 days?

None of us want to know the odds. We know it isn't at all probable. Fangraphs doesn't even show a 0.1% chance of the Diamondbacks winning the division. What we want to know is, is it possible? What would it take?

I've written out a potential schedule for both teams that would lead to the Diamondbacks winning the division by 1 game. If they instead were to tie for the division lead, they'd play a one-game playoff on October 2nd, two days before the wildcard playoff, in Arizona because the Diamondbacks won the season series. But I've focused on what it would take to win the division outright; it's easy to subtract a Dbacks win or a Dodgers loss to see what it would take to tie.

First, let's break down the seven series that each team has left:

LAD: 4 vs. COL, 3 @ WSH, 3 @ SF, 4 @ PHI, 3 vs. SF, 3 vs. SD, 3 @ COL
ARI: 3 vs. SD, 4 vs. COL, 3 @ SF, 3 @ SD, 3 vs. MIA, 3 vs. SF, 3 @ KC

The only bad news is that we don't have any more head-to-head series to sweep. Games in the division, out of the division, and home/away splits all favor the Diamondbacks. But those things aren't usually enough to overcome a 10-game deficit. Instead, it'll take something miraculous like this:

Thru play Sunday, September 10:
LAD 1-3 vs. COL, 93-50
ARI 3-0 vs. SD, 85-58 (8 GB)

The Diamondbacks, with Paul Goldschmidt back, sweep the last NL West team at home to complete their collection of scalps. Meanwhile, the Dodgers continue to struggle, losing three of four to the Rockies and inducing all-out panic among their fans. Kershaw starts tomorrow, and maybe that's the one they win. But this rapidly narrowing gap officially puts the division in sights, and Lovullo and the rest of the Diamondbacks decide to go for it.

Thru play Thursday, September 14:
LAD 1-2 @ SF, 94-52
ARI 3-1 vs. COL, 88-59 (6.5 GB)

The Dodgers then go on a tough three-city road trip starting in SF. With another Kershaw start, they have a good chance of winning one game, but that's all they get against a rival sniffing blood. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks finally lose a game to the Rockies, breaking their winning streak in the high teens, but they keep on rolling and win three out of four.

Thru play Sunday, September 17:
LAD 0-3 @ WSH, 94-55
ARI 2-1 @ SF, 90-60 (4.5 GB)

The Dodgers then head out east, playing the only other team with a winning record against them this season. The Nationals see this as a NLCS preview, and come out swinging. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks go into SF and finally lose a game on the road but win the series.

Thru play Thursday, September 21:
LAD 2-2 @ PHI, 96-57
ARI 2-1 @ SD, 92-61 (4 GB)

The Dodgers right the ship a bit in Philadelphia, splitting a 4-game series at the end of a long road trip. The Diamondbacks lose a game to the Padres, but win their tenth straight series.

Thru play Sunday, September 24:
LAD 1-2 vs. SF, 97-59
ARI 2-1 vs. MIA, 94-62 (3 GB)

Long road trips are tough, and the Dodgers are too banged up to put up a fight against San Fran in their next home series. The Diamondbacks avenge some earlier losses to the Marlins at home and get the thrill of officially eliminating them from the playoffs.

Thru play Thursday, September 28:
LAD 1-2 vs. SD, 98-61
ARI 3-0 vs. SF, 97-62 (1 GB)

Exhausted after playing 30 games in 30 days, the Dodgers drop another series at home, this time to the Padres. The Diamondbacks sweep the same Giants team that just won a series over the Dodgers, leading to anguished cries of kingmaking from the few Dodgers fans who haven't gone insane yet.

Thru play Sunday, October 1:
ARI 3-0 @ KC, 100-62
LAD 1-2 @ COL, 99-63 (1 GB)

With the Royals eliminated from the playoffs, the Diamondbacks cruise through KC. The Dodgers are less lucky to catch the Rockies fighting to hold onto that second wildcard spot. Three days later, those same Rockies eliminate the Dodgers in the wildcard game, ending their season in a maximally schadenfreude-inducing way.


Is this wishful thinking for Dbacks fans? Oh, most certainly. It would definitely qualify as the most epic September comeback in history, and hopefully would be remembered as much for the Diamondbacks' role in overtaking the Dodgers as the Dodgers' collapse. Just to sum it all up, the Diamondbacks would have to go 18-4 to finish the season, and the Dodgers go 7-16. Counting games that have already happened, this would mean that the Diamondbacks would go 31-4 in their final 35 games, while the Dodgers would go 8-27 in theirs.

Yet maybe this wouldn't be all that surprising. A run like this late in the season is also what you'd expect from a team whose manager routinely rests his players to keep them fresh for this time of year. And in the last 12 games, the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Brewers have just given the league a blueprint of how to beat the Dodgers, at least when Kershaw isn't on the mound. The Dodgers offense in particular looks pitiful; they've scored two runs or fewer in 8 of those games. Who knows?

Savor this possibility while it's still alive, Dbacks fans.