Last year, they chased the San Francisco Giants in vain until the final day, falling a game short of a division title and victim to an arduous postseason path as a lower-seeded wild card team.
It haunted them all winter. It was one of their main motivators this spring. And all regular season, it had been the goal most front-of-mind for the team with baseball’s best record.
The Dodgers wanted to reclaim the NL West. Badly.
On Tuesday night, with more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, they officially did.
With a 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, the Dodgers clinched the division title in dominant fashion, locking up the NL West with 21 games to go.
Unlike last year, there was no drama in this race. No scoreboard watching or pivotal intra-division matchups down the stretch.
Instead, the 20th division title in Dodgers franchise history, and their ninth in the last 10 years, had been on ice for weeks, ever since the team turned what had been a first-place tie with the Padres on June 22 into an overwhelming 19 ½ game lead by August 24.
Since then, a first-place finish felt inevitable, with the bigger question being how soon the Dodgers would clinch.
On Tuesday, they did it in their 141st game, the fastest a Dodgers team had ever done so in a full-length season.
The victory was keyed by both the Dodgers’ longest-tenured player, and two of their newest faces.
Clayton Kershaw dazzled over seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out five in what was his fourth start in a division-clinching game.
The left-hander has shut the opponent out in three of those games, with a 0.30 ERA in such situations. Tuesday marked the 11th time in his career he’s been part of a division-title team, as well.
At the plate, the Dodgers opened the scoring on a second-inning two-run homer from Joey Gallo, the team’s biggest trade deadline acquisition.
In the third inning, they added another run on a solo blast from Freddie Freeman, the team’s $162 million offseason who has helped spearhead their league-leading offense with an MLB-best .329 batting average.
The last time the Dodgers had a scene like this was in 2019 (their 2020 celebration was dampened — and without alcohol — because of pandemic rules), back before they had Freeman or Trea Turner or Mookie Betts; before they’d won their first World Series title in more than three decades.
Yet, their objectives then were the same they are now.
Win the division in the regular season. Then pursue a much loftier goal in October.
On Tuesday night, they celebrated the first step. Now, their attention will turn to the latter.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports