PHOENIX – Within one, 24-hour period, the Los Angeles Dodgers hit the trifecta.
On Monday night and behind lefty Tyler Anderson, the Dodgers clinched a playoff spot for the 10th consecutive season. On Tuesday, they added two additional steps and included the NL West division title and home-field advantage in all post-season rounds.
This time, veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw came up with a stellar effort that pushed the Dodgers into the postseason. In going seven strong innings, Kershaw allowed only three base runners and retired 13 straight at one point during a 4-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks before 21,143 in Chase Field.
With the victory, the Dodgers claimed their ninth division title in the past 10 years and the 20th since the start of divisional play in 1969. In wrapping up the NL West Tuesday in their 141st game, that was the fastest the team claimed in Los Angeles Dodger history. The franchise mark is 138 games, and the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers accomplished that feat.
“It’s hard to compare to other teams here, especially when it’s right in front of us,” said infielder Justin Turner, who reached the post-season every year since joining the Dodgers in 2014. “This is a special group and we’ve obviously accomplished our first goal. That’s winning the division. There are still bigger and better things we need to do in here. We’ll celebrate, we’ll enjoy and there are many guys in here which is their first celebration. It’s awesome to get to pop the bottles and have that champagne shower. Let those guys get a taste of it. If we accomplish what we want to accomplish, there will be a lot more to celebrate.”
At the start of the series with Arizona Monday night, L. A. manager Dave Roberts spoke of the prodigious offense. With a run differential at plus 316, the Dodgers used power and the long ball in the West division-clinching game. In accumulating nine hits in the clincher, the team banged out six extra-base hits, including home runs from Joey Gallo, Freddie Freeman, and Max Muncy.
Meanwhile, Kershaw turned in an effort that rivaled any this season. In limiting Arizona to two hits and only three baserunners in those sparkling seven innings, he allowed no hits to Minnesota in his initial start of the season on April 13, and surrendered just one hit in eight innings (in a 9-1 over the Angels on July 15) and one hit in five innings to the Mets on Sept. 1.
The fact the Dodgers clinched the division in Chase Field may not have been as emotional in a different setting. That was the observation of Merrill Kelly, who was Arizona’s losing pitcher.
“I don’t think it was any secret that they would do it and it just happened to be here,” Kelly said. “They are miles in front of everyone and I think it was a matter of time. In my mind, it really doesn’t matter where they did it. I think it would be different if they did it in a close race and down to the last couple of games. I think that would sting a little bit more.”
Still one more in the desert … With 20 games remaining on their schedule, the Dodgers can cruise into the post-season. The series in Chase Field concludes Wednesday night when rookie Michael Grove (0-0, 4.82 ERA) takes the mound. The 25-year-old is a native of Wheeling, West Va. This will be his fourth appearance of the season and his third start. He draws Arizona righty Zach Davies (2-4, 4.09 ERA) as his mound opponent. … Kershaw’s win was his 19th career victory over Arizona and raised his career mark to 19-11 in 40 starts.