It might not always have been the smoothest of rides, but it offered the desired finish: the National League West title.
The Dodgers won their second consecutive division title Wednesday night, fittingly behind the impressive pitching of Clayton Kershaw, by beating the Giants, 9-1, before a jubilant sellout Dodger Stadium crowd of 53,387.
Kershaw -- greeted by chants of "MVP" all night -- pitched eight innings, holding the Giants to one run on eight hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out 11. He even tripled in the Dodgers' first run in the fifth inning.
Kershaw now leads all of baseball in wins (21) and earned-run average (1.77), and he leads the NL in strikeouts (239). A third NL Cy Young appears assured, and he might have locked up the MVP award, too, with his performance Wednesday.
Yasiel Puig hit a solo home run to put the Dodgers ahead, 2-1, in the sixth inning. Juan Uribe drove in three runs on the night and Carl Crawford had a two-run double in a four-run sixth inning.
The Dodgers will host the division series at Dodger Stadium starting Oct. 3, likely a rematch from last postseason against the Cardinals.
Here's an inning-by-inning recap of the game:
Top of the ninth inning: Dodgers 9, Giants 1
The Dodgers called on former Giant Brian Wilson to start the ninth inning. Kershaw went another eight remarkable innings, giving up one run on eight hits. He struck out 11 and did not walk a batter.
Andrew Susac greeted Wilson with a double to left field before Chris Dominguez bounced out and Joaquin Arias flied out to right field. Gregor Blanco bounced out to a sliding Darwin Barney to end it.
And the Dodgers win themselves a second consecutive National League West title.
Bottom of the eighth inning: Dodgers 9, Giants 1
The Dodgers came up in the inning and mostly there was a sense of just wanting to get it over so they get on to the celebration. Wasn't going to happen.
Adrian Gonzalez was walked by Giants reliever Erik Cordier to lead off the inning, then Matt Kemp struck out. Miguel Rojas hit into what should have been an inning-ending double play, but shortstop Joaquin Arias dropped the ball for an error.
Reliever Erik Cordier hit Carl Crawford with a 98-mph fastball on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases. Crawford gave Cordier a look, but then took first base. Juan Uribe, after being buzzed by a 99 mph fastball, singled to center field two score two more. A.J. Ellis bounced out, but that was good enough to score Crawford with another run. Two more walks forced in a final run.
The Dodgers are three outs from the division title.
Top of the eighth inning: Dodgers 5, Giants 1
Darwin Barney, a former Gold Glove winner, took over for Dee Gordon at second base to start the inning.
Clayton Kershaw retired the Giants in order for the fourth time. He's now at 117 pitches and the Dodgers had J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson warming up in the bullpen. Closer Kenley Jansen has pitched three days in a row and is presumably unavailable to pitch the ninth inning.
Kershaw struck out two in the inning to give him 11 on the night. He's taken over the strikeout lead in the National League.
Bottom of the seventh inning: Dodgers 5, Giants 1
After two innings of excitement, the Dodgers went uneventfully in the seventh. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt took over to start the inning for the Giants and retired the Dodgers in order.
Clayton Kershaw is at 104 pitches, but is coming out to start the eighth inning. No one is up in the bullpen.
Top of the seventh inning: Dodgers 5, Giants 1
As per usual, the Dodgers replaced Hanley Ramirez at shortstop with a much better defensive player, Miguel Rojas.
After striking out Joaquin Arias, Clayton Kershaw gave up another single to Gregor Blanco, his second of the night. Pinch-hitter Matt Duffy singled to center field, but Blanco tried reaching third base against Yasiel Puig. Generally not a good idea. He was thrown out easily, which halted the Giants' rally quickly.
Duffy advanced to second base on an error by Kershaw, but then the pitcher coaxed another strikeout from Hunter Pence.
Kershaw entered the inning at 94 pitches and with a four-run lead. He's still got the lead, and is at 104 pitches on the night. He's due to bat first in the bottom of the seventh inning, and it looks like he's going to hit and stay in the game.
Bottom of sixth inning: Dodgers 5, Giants 1
The intensity level at Dodger Stadium just jumped, something like the ball that Yasiel Puig hit. The dynamic Cuban outfielder brought the sellout crowd to its feet, not to mention the Dodgers' dugout, when he led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run.
Puig had been hitless in nine at-bats in this three-game series when he launched his 15th home run of the season on an 0-2 pitch.
When Adrian Gonzalez then lined out to right field and Matt Kemp doubled to center, that ended the night for Giants starter Tim Hudson. Still, it was an heroic effort by the 39-year-old, whom the Dodgers had embarrassed the last time they met in a 17-0 blowout.
Javier Lopez took over for the Giants, but it only got worse for San Francisco. After intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford lined a two-run double to right. Gene Machi quickly took over for Lopez, Juan Uribe singled to score Crawford.
The Dodgers are up by four, the crowd is alive and a division title seems within grasp.
Top of the sixth inning: Dodgers 1, Giants 1
Apparently Clayton Kershaw was not completely winded after running around the bases for his triple the previous inning.
He got two quick outs before Pablo Sandoval hit a bouncer up the middle that Dee Gordon got to but dropped in his glove before making a throw. Andrew Susac followed with a single up the middle and a Kershaw wild pitch moved the runners to second and third bases. But rookie Chris Dominguez bounced back to Kershaw to end the threat.
Kershaw is at 94 pitches through six innings, so this could prove one of those dangerous bullpen games.
Bottom of the fifth inning: Dodgers 1, Giants 1
Seems Clayton Kershaw best get used to those "MVP" chants. He's not doing anything to make them go away. All he did in the fifth inning was triple in the Dodgers' first run.
Things started promisingly enough in the inning when Tim Hudson hit leadoff hitter Carl Crawford in the foot with a pitch, and Crawford almost immediately stole second base. When Juan Uribe lined out to right field, Crawford advanced to third base but A.J. Ellis popped up on his first pitch.
Which brought up Kershaw, who promptly tripled into the right-center field gap. It was the first career triple for Kershaw. The man knows timing. "MVP" chants rippled through Dodger Stadium. Kershaw has a reputation as a good-hitting pitcher, but he started the night hitting .164 with two RBIs.
Top of the fifth inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0
Clayton Kershaw made quick work of the Giants in the fifth, retiring them in order for the third time.
He caught Gregor Blanco looking at a third strike, got Tim Hudson to bounce out to second base and Hunter Pence struck out looking at the pitch. Kershaw has six strikeouts without a walk through his five innings.
Bottom of the fourth inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0
Getting a little nervous? The Dodgers hit the ball fairly hard against Tim Hudson in the fourth inning and had absolutely nothing to show for it.
Adrian Gonzalez flied out to deep center field before Matt Kemp crushed a ball, lining it almost directly at rookie left fielder Chris Dominguez. Hudson, who's 39, struck out Hanley Ramirez for the third out to retire the Dodgers in order.
After four innings, Hudson has thrown only 50 pitches and given up only two hits. This is the same guy who has been struggling as of late, right?
Top of the fourth inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0
The Giants got another lead-off single, this time from Pablo Sandoval, but Clayton Kershaw pretty much took matters into his own hands this time.
He struck out the next two batters, Andrew Susac and Chris Dominguez, and then got Joaquin Arias to pop up. Through his four innings, Kershaw has thrown 58 pitches.
Bottom of the third inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0
A.J. Ellis opened the inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second base by Clayton Kershaw's bunt.
Dee Gordon bounced out sharply to first base, Ellis taking third on the play. Yasiel Puig bounced out to shortstop to end the latest mini-threat. Puig is currently hitless in nine at-bats against the Giants in this three-game series.
Top of the third inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0
Not according to script! Giants score first, despite an absolutely ridiculous defensive play by Clayton Kershaw.
Joaquin Arias led off the inning with an infield hit when he beat shortstop Hanley Ramirez's throw. Gregor Blanco followed with a line-drive single to left field.
Right-hander Tim Hudson then hit a sharp one-hopper back to Kershaw. It was actually hit behind his back. Kershaw stuck his glove behind him, made a backhanded catch and threw Hudson out. So good it was stupid.
Hunter Pence then hit a slow bouncer to Juan Uribe up the third-base line as Arias broke home. Catcher AJ. Ellis signaled for Uribe to throw to first but the throw came home instead, Ellis' tag too late to get Arias, who scored the game's first run.
Joe Panik singled to shallow left to load the bases, but Kershaw got out of further trouble when Buster Posey hit into a double play. Back in the dugout, Ramirez approached Kershaw and tapped his chest to say he should have thrown Arias out to start the inning. Kershaw gave Ramirez a glove slap on the butt to say thanks.
Bottom of the second inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0
Well, at least that qualified as progress. The Dodgers collected the game's first two hits when Hanley Ramirez singled off the glove of shotrstop Joaquin Arias with one out and Carl Crawford lined a single to right field to advance Ramirez to third.
Juan Uribe ended the initial suspense by bouncing into a double play.
Not a good sign for the Dodgers: The last time they faced Tim Hudson, they chased him with six runs before he could get an out in the second inning.
Top of the second inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0
Another easy inning for Clayton Kershaw. The left-hander retired the Giants in order again, striking out Andrew Susac. That's right, in their biggest game of the year, the Giants are batting Susac sixth.
Bottom of first inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0
That seemed only fair. The Dodgers went just as quietly against San Francisco right-hander Tim Hudson in the bottom of the inning. He retired the Dodgers in order, getting both Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. Boys might be a little eager.
Hudson, who started that game won 17-0 by the Dodgers on Sept. 9 in San Francisco, needed just 14 pitches.
Also co-owner Peter Guber, the Dodgers other Los Angeles resident, has joined Magic Johnson in the owner's box.
Top of the first inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0
That was pretty much the start the Dodgers were hoping to see out of Clayton Kershaw.
He made short work of the Giants, retiring them in order on eight pitches.
Hunter Pence lined out to Dee Gordon at second, Joe Panik struck out swinging and Buster Posey bounced out to his former teammate, third baseman Juan Uribe.
At first pitch the stadium is, predictably, less than half full. The game is a sellout, though. There is only one of the Dodgers' five owners in their field box, Magic Johnson.
The honorary first pitch was thrown out by Elgin Baylor, introduced as "former Lakers great" without a word said about his 22 years spent as the Clippers general manager.
In his nightly video preview of the game, Vin Scully mentioned the Dodgers were winless in their last seven attempts at a first opportunity to clinch. Did not exactly send electricity rippling through the ballpark.
-- Steve Dilbeck
The Brewers won tonight, which means that if the San Francisco Giants are going to clinch a wild card spot tonight, it's going to have to be by beating the Dodgers. If the Brewers lost, the Giants could have clinched tonight.
Now, there's no chance of a double celebration. Only one team goes home happy tonight.
With first pitch in about 45 minutes, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw walked to the outfield and began stretching.
As he walked to left field alongside catcher A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers fans already in attendance gave him a standing ovation and chanted, "MVP!"
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said before the game that left-handed starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to start throwing off a mound in the next couple days.
Ryu, the team's No. 3 starter and a crucial part of their postseason rotation, is recovering from a sore left shoulder. He's been throwing on flat ground this week, but hasn't thrown off a mound since completing one inning in his last start on Sept. 12.
Also of note is the Dodger's theoretical rotation against the Colorado Rockies this weekend. If the team doesn't beat the Giants tonight, it would need a win against the Rockies to clinch the National League West title. Right now, those weekend starters would be, in order, Roberto Hernandez, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke.
But, if the Dodgers do win tonight, there isn't much of an incentive to try to win games this weekend. The Nationals have the best record in the National League at 92-64. The Dodgers, at 90-68 before tonight's game, aren't likely to catch them. So, if the Dodgers win tonight, Mattingly said that they might adjust this weekend's rotation.
Dee Gordon and Carl Crawford will be back in the Dodgers lineup for their potential division-clinching game against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The left-handed-hitting Gordon and Crawford didn't play the previous night, when the Dodgers were facing left-handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Right-hander Tim Hudson will pitch Wednesday for the Giants.
Clayton Kershaw, who is 20-3 with a 1.80 earned-run average, will start for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers lineup: 1. Dee Gordon 2B; 2. Yasiel Puig CF; 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B; 4. Matt Kemp RF; 5. Hanley Ramirez SS; 6. Carl Crawford LF; 7. Juan Uribe 3B; 8. A.J. Ellis C; 9. Clayton Kershaw P
More than three hours before the first pitch, outfielder Yasiel Puig was working out with trainer Stan Conte (here's a photo showing it). Puig told Times reporter Dylan Hernandez that "everything's fine." Although Conte was monitoring his movements closely, Puig said that he was just working out and not testing anything.
But Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly told Times reporter Dylan Hernandez that Puig was out on the field to test the ankle that was hit by a pitch in last night's win. According to Mattingly, there didn't seem to be any issues.
Puig, who was in the middle of a benches-clearing kerfuffle last night with Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, will be batting second and playing center field.
A night after totaling only two runs and seven hits against right-hander Zack Greinke in a 4-2 loss to the Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants have switched their lineup for Wednesday's game against left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
First baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford and left fielder Juan Perez are all out of the lineup. Buster Posey will be playing first base instead of catcher and rookie Andrew Susac will be catching Tim Hudson.
The Giants lineup: 1. Pence RF; 2. Panik 2B; 3. Posey 1B; 4. Sandoval 3B; 5. Susac C; 6. Dominguez LF; 7. Arias SS; 8. Blanco CF; 9. Hudson P.