As usual, Dodgers live or die by the long ball

Los Angeles times sports writer Andy McCullough and columnist Dylan Hernandez discuss how the Dodgers made it to the postseason and what their chances are.

One voice was distinguishable from the others in the booze-soaked locker room celebration.



Cody Bellinger glanced over.

A bottle of sparkling wine in one hand and a smile on his face, Enrique Hernandez continued screaming in Bellinger's direction.

"Chicks dig the friggin' long ball, Belly!" Hernandez said before slapping Bellinger on the chest.

Bellinger laughed and pretended to double over in pain.

The Dodgers' dependence on home runs was a source of frustration at times this season. Monday, it was why they celebrated in the bowels of Dodger Stadium.

They claimed their sixth consecutive National League West championship by doing what they were designed to do, powering their way to a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies in a tiebreaking 163rd game behind two-run home runs by Bellinger and Max Muncy.

As much as the Dodgers have spoken about diversifying their offense, the reality is they will go as far as they can launch baseballs over outfield walls. If they're going to spray and pour alcohol over each other again, it will be because of the long ball. It's who they are. It's in their DNA.

They led the National League with a franchise-record 235 home runs. The Atlanta Braves, their opponents in a National League Division Series, finished the regular season with 175.

Counting their victory Monday, the Dodgers are 51-14 when hitting two or more home runs.

Seven of their eight starting position players hit 21 or more. The other was Justin Turner, who hit 14 in only 103 games.

Manny Machado blasted 37, 13 after he was acquired by the Dodgers in mid-July. Muncy launched 35.

Matt Kemp, who hit 21, started the game on the bench. So did Chris Taylor, who hit 17.

The power is particularly useful in the kind of game they played against the Rockies. The Dodgers figured runs would be scarce. They started Walker Buehler, who touched 99 mph with his fastball. The Rockies countered with German Marquez, a 23-year-old right-hander who was also throwing in the mid- to high-90s. Marquez entered the game with a 14-10 record and 3.76 earned-run average.

"He has nasty stuff," Bellinger said. "We knew it was going to be a pitchers' duel."


The game was scoreless through three innings. The Dodgers were gifted an opening in the fourth, when a passed ball by Rockies catcher Troy Wolters allowed Muncy to reach first base on a strikeout. Marquez struck out Machado and Grandal before serving up a towering shot to Bellinger that sailed into the right-field pavilion.

"He's got really, really good stuff," Bellinger said, "so I just wanted to do what I could to get us on the board."

Muncy's turn came in the fifth inning, two at-bats after Joc Pederson doubled to right-center field. The left-handed-hitting Muncy worked the count full, then sent a 99-mph fastball on the outside edge of the plate over the left-field wall. The Dodgers doubled their lead to 4-0.

From the bench, Clayton Kershaw appreciated the difficulty of Marquez's task.

"You have to understand that at any moment, they can go deep," Kershaw said. "When you get behind in counts, when you get into hitter's counts, you can't say, 'I'm going to throw a fastball away and he'll just hit a single.' This guy might go [to the opposite field] like Muncy did today. There's just not a pitch you can take a breath on."

As the National League rookie of the year last season, Bellinger was expected to deliver such heroics. That wasn't the case with Muncy, who was cut last year by the Oakland Athletics and signed by the Dodgers to a minor-league contract. Muncy didn't play a major league game for the Dodgers until last April.

"Dream come true," Muncy said.

Asked if he could have ever imagined hitting 35 home runs in a season, he replied, "Anything but zero is a nice number. It's been incredible. I never would have thought a season like this could have happened, but it did."

Hitting coach Turner Ward emphasized that the organization wasn't asking players to focus on home runs.

"We're preaching getting good pitches and driving it somewhere," Ward said.

He pointed to how the home runs Monday were a byproduct of smart approaches. Bellinger hit a 1-0 pitch, Muncy a 3-2 offering.

The Dodgers had their winningest month in September and their more balanced offense was a reason why. Ward credited the acquisitions of Machado and David Freese, who batted .385 in 19 games with the Dodgers.

"Having those other elements in our offense has definitely given us a spark," Ward said.

But Ward conceded that the Dodgers' power reserve can save the team when all else fails. That power was the difference in Game 163. And it could again be a difference-maker in the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate winning their sixth consecutive NL West title.

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez