The Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, rivals occupying different tiers in baseball’s hierarchy, concluded their regular seasons on the same field with distinct agendas Sunday.
The Dodgers were there to fulfill final tuneups and set a franchise record in wins before marching into the playoffs. The Giants’ attention was on bidding goodbye to their manager, Bruce Bochy, and their ace, Madison Bumgarner, pillars for three championship runs this decade, before plodding into another long offseason.
A sellout crowd at Oracle Park was granted ample opportunities to express their adulation for the departing mainstays before a postgame ceremony honoring Bochy kept them for another two hours. The Dodgers, meanwhile, satisfied their objectives in defeating San Francisco, 9-0, for their 106th victory, surpassing the 135-year-old franchise’s record set by the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers.
“I’m going to take a moment to appreciate what we did as an organization,” Roberts said. “When you’re talking about the regular season and all those great teams in Dodgers history, it takes a lot to accomplish what we accomplished as a group, as an organization, and there’s a lot to be said for that. Very proud of everyone, top to bottom.”
The Dodgers also set a franchise mark for run differential (plus-273) and won the National League West by a record 21 games. They will play Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s wild-card game between the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers.
“It’s cool,” Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw said. “It’s a lot of wins. Let’s try to win 11 more.”
The top priority for Los Angeles on Sunday was Rich Hill. Last year, Hill found out he was starting the regular-season finale against the Giants (77-85) less than 24 hours before the game. The stakes were different then. The Dodgers needed to win to avoid the wild-card game.
On Sunday, the left-hander was making his second start since re-injuring the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in an attempt to convince his superiors he is fit to pitch in the playoffs. Hill offered a strong case with three scoreless innings. He allowed one hit, walked two, and recorded four strikeouts. He appeared more comfortable throwing his 49 pitches than he did during his start Tuesday. Afterward, he threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen.
Roberts said he is “feeling really good about” Hill starting Game 4 of the NLDS if necessary. Hill was content.
“That was our goal the entire time,” he said.
The Dodgers (106-56) ambushed Giants right-hander Dereck Rodriguez with five runs in the first inning before making wholesale substitutions. Corey Seager fueled the outburst -- sparked by two groundballs that went through gaping holes the Giants’ infield shifting offered -- by clearing the bases with his 44th double, leaving him tied for the National League lead with Anthony Rendon. Five pitches later, Will Smith deposited a two-run home run just over the wall in left-center field.
The drama peaked in the fifth inning. It began with Kershaw making the short walk from the uncovered bullpen down the right-field line to the mound for his first relief appearance in a regular season since 2009. Kershaw tossed six innings Thursday. He will start one of the first three games of the NLDS, but will also likely come out of the bullpen at some point. Sunday’s appearance was perhaps both a final tuneup and a rehearsal.
Kershaw retired the first two batters before a familiar face emerged from the Giants’ dugout. Bumgarner, an impending free agent unlikely to re-sign, stepped out for a pinch-hit appearance to a rousing ovation. Originally scheduled to start on the mound, Bumgarner, arguably baseball’s best hitting pitcher, was given an opportunity to absorb the crowd’s appreciation when Kershaw summoned the catcher. Bumgarner doffed his helmet to the fans.
A battle between the respected rivals ensued. Kershaw challenged Bumgarner, a capable adversary with two career home runs off him, with seven fastballs. Bumgarner lined the seventh to the third baseman for the third out. Kershaw turned to the Giants dugout as he walked off the field and tipped his cap to Bochy. The retiring manager reciprocated as the crowd roared again upon Bumgarner’s exit.
“It was cool,” Kershaw said. “I know that once we saw he’s not pitching today, [there had to be] some way to let the fans appreciate what he had done here. And it was a good way to do it.”
Joe Kelly followed Kershaw for his first appearance in 11 days in the sixth inning after battling an “overall body situation,” according Roberts. It was a quick showing. The right-hander induced two groundouts with six pitches before Roberts replaced him with Adam Kolarek.
In all, eight Dodgers pitchers held a meager Giants lineup to three hits and three walks. They combined for the club’s 18th shutout of the season. The count resets Thursday.
“It’s been a really special year, but there is still more to be done,” outfielder Cody Bellinger said. “We all know that.”