The next month of games could decide how the West is won.
The Dodgers currently reign supreme in the National League West standings, sitting two games ahead of the rival Giants. But with 18 of their final 22 games coming against division opponents, that lead could be put to the test in the coming weeks.
The first test will be the D-backs, who will take on one of their former teammates, right-hander Dan Haren, when the teams meet Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that, with the end of the year nigh, these upcoming games take on further importance.
"I think our focus right now is just winning games, trying to win our division, knowing that every game is important from that standpoint," Mattingly said. "The main thing you want to do now is -- obviously, you want to get into the playoffs -- but if you get in, you want to win the division because you don't want to play in the Wild Card game if you don't have to."
Mattingly and the Dodgers have their eyes set on the division title -- they want to avoid a one-game playoff.
"I think the biggest thing is you've got to get yourself five games," Mattingly said. "You have a better chance, you feel like, of the better team winning in five games. With one game, you never know what could happen. The ball could bounce the wrong way. Everything could go wrong. It's just one of those games you don't want to be in."
After being pushed back from a noon Wednesday start, Haren (11-10, 4.27 ERA) will be pitching on extra rest for the Dodgers. He's coming off back-to-back quality outings against the Mets and Padres, allowing just one earned run across his last 13 innings.
Lefty Vidal Nuno will take the ball for the D-backs, coming off perhaps the best start of his career. Nuno gave up one run on two hits to the Rockies on Aug. 30, though he can't buy a win -- the D-backs didn't score in that game, and they are 1-9 in Nuno's starts this year.
D-backs: Ziegler possibly done for season
After manager Kirk Gibson said Tuesday that reliever Brad Ziegler was dealing with a sore left knee, he didn't rule out Wednesday shutting him down for the rest of the year.
"It's something we're thinking about," said Gibson, pointing out that if the injury forces Ziegler to change his delivery, he could hurt his arm or shoulder.
Ziegler will receive a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Friday in Los Angeles.
The veteran reliever, who has a career ERA of 2.56, is up to a 3.49 mark. Before he pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning Thursday, he had posted a 7.84 ERA in his last 11 games, with opponents hitting .372 off him.
Ziegler said his understanding is that, depending on how much repair is required, the recovery time could be four to six weeks on the short end or as long as 12 weeks.
Dodgers: Mattingly says outfield plan hasn't changed
On Monday, manager Don Mattingly said that he'd play top prospect Joc Pederson off the bench -- as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. But on Tuesday, Pederson got his first Major League start in center field, in place of a struggling Yasiel Puig.
And on Wednesday, Pederson was starting in center field again, with Puig in right field for the first time in 31 starts.
What happened to playing Pederson off the bench?
"Yeah, I kind of remember [saying] that," Mattingly joked before Wednesday's finale with the Nationals. "My plan is to actually not share all of my plans. That's the job, right? You have to try to squeeze it out of me, and I've got to try to pull a [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick on you and give you no answers."
Mattingly didn't give many more answers regarding his outfield situation Wednesday. He said starting Pederson was more about giving Matt Kemp a breather in right field, but he also didn't commit to an outfield alignment going forward.
"We'll just see how it goes," Mattingly said. "I haven't made any plan to do anything different than we've been doing."
• A former D-back, Haren has had success against Arizona in the past, going 5-2 with a 3.70 ERA seven games (six starts).
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.