Tuesday, November 30 2021
Mookie Betts watches the ball after hitting a solo home run

The Dodgers completed their third straight series sweep of the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, discarding their once competitive foes aside like the dismal sub-.500 team they’ve become in an 8-3 victory.

It was their 103rd win of the season — tied for fifth most in franchise history — with three games remaining. An undefeated finish and they’d match the franchise record set two years ago.

The problem is the San Francisco Giants have been even better, leaving the Dodgers as quite possibly the best second-place team since divisions were implemented in 1969.

Minutes after the Dodgers completed their win Thursday, the Giants’ expectation-defying season continued with a walk-off single from LaMonte Wade Jr. in a 5-4 triumph over the 50-win Arizona Diamondbacks that kept the Dodgers two games behind them in the National League West standings.

As a result, the Dodgers will need the Padres, who they beat for the ninth straight time Thursday, to take at least two of three games from the Giants this weekend while sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers to have a chance to win their ninth straight division title. If they don’t, they will host the wild-card game on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We have to play good baseball,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “If we do that, bring it on. It doesn’t matter who we play or in what format.”

The Dodgers (103-56) continued Thursday where they left from their late-inning home run barrage Wednesday with back-to-back home runs from Mookie Betts and Corey Seager to start the bottom of the first inning. Justin Turner and AJ Pollock then went back-to-back in the fourth to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

An inning later, Fernando Tatis Jr. mashed the longest home run of them all for the Padres (78-81) — a 457-foot, two-run blast that bounced off the top of the roof over the left field pavilion and out of the stadium. The blast was Tatis’ NL-leading 42nd and seventh at Dodger Stadium this season.

The Dodgers followed with a three-run sixth inning on four singles to effectively put the game away. Seager hit his second home run — and third in two days — in the eighth inning to remove any doubt as the Dodgers tallied more than five runs in consecutive games for the first time since July 31 and Aug. 1.

“It’s been a while since we’ve clicked,” Betts said. “It’s just good to know we can do it.”

As it stands, Max Scherzer would start the wild-card game for the Dodgers opposite the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. A loss and the Dodgers’ quest for back-to-back World Series titles would abruptly end without Clayton Kershaw throwing a single pitch in the playoffs unless he comes out of the bullpen that night.

That possibility means Kershaw, a free agent after the season, could take the mound Friday at Dodger Stadium against the Brewers for the final time as a member of the home team.

That he’s scheduled to pitch at all — and log a full starter’s workload — on Oct. 1 wasn’t a guarantee just a month ago when he was on the injured list with forearm inflammation. Kershaw missed more than two months — a month longer than initially expected — after a setback during his rehab.

Dodgers' Corey Seager celebrates hits solo home run.Dodgers' Corey Seager celebrates hits solo home run.

Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates hits solo home run against the San Diego Padres in the first inning at Dodger Stadium Thursday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Asked Thursday if his uncertain future added further motivation to return for the stretch run, Kershaw dismissed the notion.

“Honestly, my future will take care of itself,” Kershaw. “I’m not worried about that. I want to get back because of the opportunity that we have as a team. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the opportunity to play deep into October doesn’t happen as often as it does for us. So, you can’t take that for granted. You just can’t.

“Yeah, that’s why. You want to be a part of it. I have never missed a postseason [because of] an injury and I don’t plan on doing it this year.”

To assure that Kershaw’s final outing as a Dodger isn’t Friday, the Dodgers would need to at least tie the Giants in the standings by the end of Sunday to force Game 163 for the division title in San Francisco on Monday.

The Dodgers have done their part down the stretch, posting the best record in the majors since Aug. 1. They began that day three games behind San Francisco. But the Giants have almost been as good and the Dodgers’ window for avoiding the wild-card game is closing.

“I think we understand that we’re having a good season to this point,” Roberts said, “and we’re wired to keep going.”

Lux’s scary crash becomes laughing matter

Gavin Lux slamming into the wall trying to make a catch in left-center field Wednesday was one of the scarier moments of the Dodgers’ season. By Thursday afternoon, it was something the team could laugh about.

There was a silhouette taped on to the State Farm ad where Lux’s body crashed into the wall by the time the Dodgers took the field for pregame workouts. It was the work of video coordinator Chad Chop, who used bullpen catcher Francisco “Chico” Herrera as the model for the outline.

“It’s hilarious,” Lux said. “He was like, ‘Can I do that?’ I was like ‘I don’t care.’ It’s a good way to make a joke about it. Now looking back at it, you can joke about it. So, it’s funny.”

The Dodgers could joke about it because Lux, who is less than a month into transitioning from the infield to the outfield, didn’t suffer any major injuries. He said his neck was stiff, but there aren’t any structural issues.

“It was scary,” Lux said. “But I’ll get some anti-inflammatories and we’ll roll.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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