San Francisco Chronicle

Scherzer pushes Dodgers ahead

- John Shea is The San Francisco Chronicle’s national baseball writer. Email: jshea@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @JohnSheaHe­y

Whichever team in the National League West got Max Scherzer would win the division.

I said as much on a Chronicle baseball podcast this week, and I can’t push back now. Scherzer will have that much impact in the final two months, enough to carry the Dodgers to their ninth straight division title.

That neither the Giants nor the Padres added to their rotation further benefits the Dodgers in

their quest to finish first and thus advance straight to a Division Series and avoid a wildcard game.

The hope in Giantsvill­e is the bigtime acquisitio­n of versatile Kris Bryant, for prospects Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian, will improve the lineup enough that it won’t matter that the Giants did not add a highend starting pitcher or reliever.

Bryant is the perfect Farhan Zaidi acquisitio­n because he can play most anywhere on the diamond and provides righthande­d pop on a team that needs to slug better against lefties.

Through it all, the Giants didn’t need to part with elite prospects Heliot Ramos or Joey Bart (Marco Luciano is the untouchabl­e of untouchabl­es), keeping their future course intact.

No matter which team finishes on top, what we’ve seen in the season’s first four months and at the trade deadline, which came at 1 p.m. Friday, indicates this race promises to be an alltimer.

When the deadline passed, the Dodgers clearly were among the most successful buyers, acquiring Scherzer, AllStar shortstop Trea Turner (who’ll move to second base) and another starter, Danny Duffy, who’s expected to return in August from a flexor strain.

They can thank their friends from San Francisco. If not for the Giants sprinting to the deadline with the majors’ best record and beating L.A. five times in seven games over 11 days this month, perhaps the Dodgers wouldn’t have been as motivated or eager to respond with their blockbuste­r.

All three NL West powers were seeking a rotation boost, and the Dodgers won the lottery with Scherzer, the premier available starter who’s 37 and pitching as if he’s 27.

With Clayton Kershaw rehabbing his forearm inflammati­on, Dustin May out for the year after Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer possibly gone forever, the Dodgers weren’t going to stand pat. Especially while looking up at the Giants.

Now the Dodgers will have a Big Three in the playoffs — which is pretty much a requiremen­t unless it’s 2014 and you have Madison Bumgarner — of Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Kershaw, who’s expected to be activated in August.

The Giants’ and Padres’ rotations don’t match up.

Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani have been the Giants’ undisputed top two, and Logan Webb, Alex Wood or Johnny Cueto might emerge as the clear No. 3, but that’s to be determined. And remember, Gausman and DeSclafani struggled in recent starts against the Dodgers.

The Padres desperatel­y needed a starter with Blake Snell’s ERA north of 5.00, and reports early Thursday had them acquiring Scherzer and forming a Big Three of Scherzer, Yu Darvish and either Snell (if he returns to 2020 form), Joe Musgrove or Chris Paddack.

The Padres might not have improved their rotation, but they enhanced their offense with second baseman Adam Frazier and outfielder Jake Marisnick and bullpen with reliever Daniel Hudson.

I had written one available player who could be the biggest difference­maker for the Giants was Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel because the bullpen, while successful so far, lacks anyone with significan­t postseason experience beyond Jake McGee, and Kimbrel could have further solidified the lateinning relief corps.

Instead, Kimbrel went across town to the White Sox, giving Tony La Russa baseball’s best 12 closer punch, also featuring Liam Hendriks. The Giants did get one reliever, bringing back lefty Tony Watson, 36.

Much was said about the possibilit­y of snagging shortstop Trevor Story and playing him at second base or left field and at shortstop when Brandon Crawford rests, but the Rockies kept him.

Bryant is a better fit and has an amazing resume: rookie of the year, MVP, fourtime AllStar, World Series champ. With a big smile on his face, he picked up a slow roller and threw to first base for the final out of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs’ first title since 1908.

With the Giants, he’ll undoubtedl­y play third base until Evan Longoria returns and slide to other spots on the field based on need, and he’ll certainly hit in the middle of a lineup that leads the majors in homers.

The goal for all three California clubs is winning the division because it’s likely the other two will face off in a doordie game, and it seems the Dodgers took the biggest tradedeadl­ine step in that direction.

All three loaded up to different degrees, and while the Dodgers scored highest with trades, the other teams believe they can outdo the others with their newest acquisitio­ns helping to lead the way.

It was an epic deadline, and now prepare for an epic race to the finish.

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