Posted on September 23, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the fifth consecutive year, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been crowned kings of the NL West. With their 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, the Dodgers officially clinched the division title. For the past few months, there’s been little doubt that Los Angeles would end up on top of the division, but now the team can finally celebrate a job well done. Fittingly, the clinching game came on the 90th birthday of legendary manager Tommy Lasorda.
“You have to celebrate a division title,” ace Clayton Kershaw said mid-celebration while being doused with celebratory beer. “For a lot of people, it could be the last time. That doesn’t mean we don’t know we’ve got more to do. And I can’t see out of my right eye.”
Of course, the clinching game didn’t come nearly as soon as the Dodgers believed it would. Earlier this month, Los Angeles endured a puzzling 11-game losing streak. But after building such a substantial lead atop the division, even 11 straight losses couldn’t take the division away from the Dodgers. In fact, the Dodgers still have the best record in baseball with 98 wins.
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“Ninety-eight wins at the start of the season, yeah, if you told me we’d have that with eight games to go, we’d be pretty excited about it,” GM Farhan Zaidi after Friday’s win. “We feel good about where we are and we have some games left to continue to get our groove as we have been the last few games. Great accomplishment.”
Perhaps most impressive about the outrageous win total is how the Dodgers have endured a slew of injuries this season. Injuries have hit both the Los Angeles outfield and starting rotation throughout the year. But a top-notch bullpen, an impressive amount of depth, and the introduction of young players, most notably Cody Bellinger, have helped the Dodgers endure the injuries and wrap up another division title.
“As talented of a group I’ve been around,” proudly exclaimed Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Extremely resilient group. The preparation, the work ethic, the way they go about their business every day is unparalleled to my exposure. So to have a chance tonight to celebrate and have that release and then tomorrow, focus, lock back in as we prep for October.”
As Friedman notes, the Dodgers don’t have much time to celebrate until they need to shift their focus to the postseason. Despite a run of five straight division titles, playoff success has eluded the Dodgers in recent years. Los Angeles has advanced to the NLCS in two of the last four years. But the Dodgers haven’t played in a World Series since Lasorda led them to a world title in 1988.
With their 11-game losing streak behind them, the Dodgers are once again obvious favorites to win the National League pennant. They should soon wrap up home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, which should help. But after coming up short in the postseason four years in a row, the Dodgers know they can’t take anything for granted.
“I think we’re going to win it,” said Lasorda, who braved the celebration in the clubhouse with a pair of goggles. “There’s no doubt in my mind, but I hope that they cooperate with my prediction.”
If nothing else, confidence is high in Los Angeles after five straight division titles. Amidst the celebration, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spotted Lasorda, smiled and said: “This is just the beginning.”