The Dodgers’ 100th win of the season was like many of the 99 that preceded it.
There was strong starting pitching, in the form of a seven-inning, three-run, eight-strikeout performance from Hyun-Jin Ryu. There was an offensive outburst as the Dodgers’ lineup erupted in a five-run fifth inning.
And there were synchronized screams of “MVP!” showering from the stands as Cody Bellinger rounded the bases, his go-ahead fifth-inning grand slam having brought Dodger Stadium to a familiar tremor.
The only twist to the Dodgers’ 7-4 defeat of the overmatched and last-place Colorado Rockies, which gave the club its eighth 100-win campaign and second in the last three years, came via Ryu –- and the unexpected power in his bat.
In the first 117 games and 254 plate appearances of his MLB career, Ryu had never hit a home run. That changed with the Dodgers trailing 1-0 in the fifth. In an 0 and 2 count, Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela put a fastball over the plate. Ryu connected, sending a 389-foot drive over the wall in right center to tie the score.
“I would argue that it was the most crucial part of this game,” Ryu said, “to tie the game with my home run.”
Added catcher Will Smith: “He’s always hitting them in BP. So it was finally time he got one in the game.”
Ryu rounded the bases with a plodding gait. He ducked through a frenzied dugout celebration, protecting himself from the pounding of pats on the back. He plopped down on the bench and tried to catch his breath. For once, the gelatinous starting pitcher known for his deliberate, efficient pace looked gassed.
“There were chants from the dugout, ‘Babe Ryu,’” manager Dave Roberts said. “It was Little League. Pitch and hit a game-tying homer.”
The rest of the Dodgers lineup, meanwhile, came to life.
In the next at-bat, Joc Pederson drew a walk. Gavin Lux and Justin Turner followed with singles. With the bases loaded, the Rockies turned to left-handed reliever Jake McGee to face Bellinger. The Dodgers’ MVP candidate deposited McGee’s second pitch, a center-cut fastball, into the right-field pavilion for his fifth career grand slam and 46th home run of the year.
“It poses matchup problems,” Roberts said of Bellinger, who entered the day ranked fourth among left-handed MLB hitters (minimum 60 plate appearances) in on-base-plus-slugging percentage when facing left-handed pitching.
“When you try to go to your ‘pen, you think you’re getting a platoon advantage. Whether it’s Cody or Corey [Seager], they can slug you and take good at-bats.”
The Dodgers cruised to the century mark from there. Ryu allowed a two-run homer to Sam Hilliard the seventh, one of two home runs he allowed in an otherwise spotless 95-pitch outing. But Seager and Smith answered with full-count solo shots in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
Dodgers reliever Dustin May strengthened his case to make the postseason roster by blanking the Rockies in the eighth, his seventh scoreless inning in a row out of the bullpen. Closer Kenley Jansen allowed one run in the ninth, but stranded a runner at second.
As they exited the field, the Dodgers saluted their home crowd, which climbed to a franchise-record total of 3,974,309 on the season. By now, September wins are practically superfluous for a team that has already secured its spot in the postseason –- the Dodgers are merely in a battle for home-field advantage –- and been haunted by the letdowns of Octobers’ past. Their results next month will be the ones that matter most. But in the clubhouse, reaching the 100-win threshold signified something important too.
“It’s not easy winning 100 games,” Bellinger said. “That’s what you work on in spring training, to get to this point. Work’s not done. But it’s definitely special.”