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Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Kershaw, Darvish on tap for Phils' young bats

Phillies (58-91) vs. Dodgers (96-53)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

On a light night in baseball — only seven games tonight — the Phillies welcome the MLB-best Dodgers to Citizens Bank Park to open a four-game series.

With 13 games remaining, the Dodgers are six games ahead of the Nationals for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs, so these games matter for L.A.

Let's take a look at Game 1:

• The Dodgers were 91-36 on Aug. 25, a 116-win pace. Then in the most improbable of turns, they lost 16 of 17 games. Dave Roberts' club appears to now be back on track, having won four of the last five, including a series win over the weekend in Washington.

• This will be a very interesting four-game series for the Phillies' young hitters. Tonight, they'll face Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12), the best pitcher in baseball. 

Tuesday night, they get Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08), who's having a disappointing season but is still one of the toughest right-handers to face. Only 10 starting pitchers have a higher strikeout rate than Darvish (9.96 per nine), and he's coming off seven shutout innings.

On Wednesday, the Phils face Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69), a finesse-based lefty having a career year.

These next three games will be among the toughest Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro have played. The Phils are obviously not expected to win this series, but a few successful nights from these rookies could build some major confidence moving forward.

• For the first time since his 0-for-12 start, Hoskins is in a slump of sorts. He went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts and a walk against the A's over the weekend. Don't be shocked if he sits Tuesday night against Darvish. Since coming up on Aug. 10, Hoskins has started 37 of 38 games.

The numbers, of course, are still ridiculous. Through 159 plate appearances, Hoskins is hitting .287/.415/.736 with 18 homers and 39 RBIs. 

Against lefties, Hoskins is 6 for 28 and all six hits have been home runs.

• Kershaw missed nearly six weeks with a back strain, which was the only thing that could have prevented him from claiming his fourth Cy Young award in seven years. He was on such a roll before the injury that he still leads the majors with 17 wins despite missing seven or eight starts.

Kershaw still might be the Cy Young frontrunner. His main competition is Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If Kershaw wins each of his last three starts, he'll get to 20 with an ERA right around 2.00 or below. That'll be tough to top, even with the six weeks on the shelf.

• Not that pitcher wins matter a whole lot, but the Phillies are one of only two teams Kershaw has faced more than once and has a losing record against. He's 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts vs. the Phils. (He's 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA vs. the Pirates.)

• To avoid 100 losses, the Phils must go 5-8 or better in these final four series against the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals and Mets. Only the three games against the Braves are on the road.