PHOENIX — The celebration began with Clayton Kershaw — who else? — standing within the heart of the room, bottle of champagne in hand. The 34-year-old left-hander had been on this place loads earlier than, however perhaps by no means with a Dodgers workforce fairly this gifted round him.
“I simply wish to say I like you guys, and thanks for being so good,” Kershaw informed his teammates. “It’s actually enjoyable to be on this workforce.”
Tuesday evening’s champagne-soaked celebration within the guests’ clubhouse at Chase Field was probably solely a primary step. Los Angeles has a lot greater objectives than successful the National League West title. But it was an necessary accomplishment nonetheless, particularly after the Dodgers completed second — a phrase nearly unrecognizable to this franchise over the previous decade — within the division final 12 months.
In a 4-0 win, Kershaw carved by means of the D-backs’ lineup for seven masterful frames of two-hit ball, lifting the Dodgers to their ninth NL West title in 10 seasons. Los Angeles (98-43) ran away with the division this 12 months, clinching in its 141st sport, which is the earliest the Dodgers have executed so for the reason that franchise relocated to LA in 1958 (apart from the pandemic-shortened 60-game season in 2020).
This was the fourth time that Kershaw began an NL West-clinching sport for the Dodgers, having beforehand executed so in 2009, ’14 and ’15. Across these outings, he has a 0.30 ERA (one earned run allowed in 30 innings) with 39 strikeouts and 5 walks.
“How becoming, proper? We have an opportunity to clinch the division and Clayton’s on the mound for us once more and gave us seven unbelievable innings,” designated hitter Justin Turner stated. “He was as spectacular as you’d count on him to be.”
From 2013-20, successful the NL West turned a formality for Los Angeles, which had an eight-year reign atop the division — the ultimate 5 with supervisor Dave Roberts on the helm and culminating with a World Series championship in ’20.
Roberts and plenty of of Los Angeles’ core gamers skilled a brand new feeling in 2021, when the membership completed one sport behind San Francisco within the West. The Dodgers stored their playoff streak alive (a run prolonged to 10 straight in ’22), however they have been an NL Wild Card workforce. The postseason did not undergo Los Angeles, and the Dodgers fell within the NL Championship Series in six video games to the Braves, who had the home-field benefit.
That laid the groundwork for the membership’s offseason strikes and raised expectations for ’22.
“You know if you begin Spring Training, you begin the season, you recognize you have got a gifted roster,” Roberts stated. “But wanting into the season, we weren’t the defending National League West champions. That was first on our checklist — to get the division again in Los Angeles.”
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman stated, “Our objective going into this 12 months was to place ourselves in the perfect place to win this division.”
There was no higher method for the Dodgers to do this than by upgrading a roster already overflowing with All-Stars. The marquee transfer was the signing of Freddie Freeman, one of many sport’s elite first basemen, to a six-year, $162 million deal.
That helped flip Los Angeles from a robust offensive workforce to a juggernaut. The Dodgers have a plus-320 run differential, 30 runs above the franchise document (set by the 1889 Brooklyn Bridegrooms). They could change into the primary MLB workforce to attain no less than 300 extra runs than they allowed for the reason that 2001 Mariners (plus-300), who gained 116 video games.
With 98 victories and 21 regular-season video games to play, Los Angeles ought to find yourself with fairly a lot of wins, too.
“This is certainly easy crusing, in comparison with final 12 months,” heart fielder Cody Bellinger stated.
In Tuesday’s clincher, Freeman and Joey Gallo (who came to visit from the Yankees forward of the Trade Deadline) every homered. So did Max Muncy, one of many workforce’s mainstays over the previous 5 seasons.
When a slugger with 40-homer energy (Gallo) is within the No. 7 gap and a former NL MVP Award winner (Bellinger) is batting ninth, opposing pitchers are going through fairly a difficult process.
“We’ve bought a fantastic ballclub, you recognize?” proper fielder Mookie Betts stated. “It’s not only one man that carries the workforce. It’s everybody. Up and down the lineup, we will beat you.”
Next, the Dodgers will look to safe a top-two seed within the NL, guaranteeing they will advance on to the NL Division Series within the new expanded postseason format. They at the moment have a 15 1/2-game benefit over the NL Central-leading Cardinals, the division chief with the fewest wins.
Los Angeles additionally needs the No. 1 seed within the NL, which comes with home-field benefit by means of the playoffs. It at the moment has a 10-game benefit over the NL East-leading Mets.
And after all, the Dodgers wish to carry a World Series title to Los Angeles for a second time in three years.
“For me — and I’m positive for all these different guys — it is probably not about regular-season wins,” Freeman stated. “You have one objective from the second you step into Spring Training, and that is to win the World Series. For me, for those who’re not successful the World Series, it is a failure.”
Just how assured is Freeman — a reigning World Series champion after successful with Atlanta in 2021 — that the Dodgers’ division title really was Step One, and that their season will not finish as a “failure” by his requirements?
“Pretty assured,” Freeman stated. “This workforce’s fairly stacked on each side, and we have been enjoying good baseball for a very long time. Sometimes, it is not about the perfect workforce going into the playoffs, it is the most popular workforce. And we have been the most effective groups, and the most popular workforce, all season.”