Dodgers are unusually subdued after quietly clinching a postseason berth
There was no dogpile on the mound. There was no champagne in the clubhouse. At first, not everyone in the Dodgers’ dugout even realized what they’d accomplished.
In the latest strange chapter of this unfamiliar season, much of the team initially was unaware they’d clinched a postseason berth with Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the San Diego Padres, which coupled with losses by the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies guaranteed the Dodgers’ playoff position with 10 games to play.
“I didn’t know that,” manager Dave Roberts said during his video call afterward. “I found that out about five minutes ago.”
“That’s huge,” added a clearly surprised Will Smith, learning of the berth for the first time during a postgame TV interview with SportsNet LA. “That’s good news.”
But in a year that requires no more reminders of its abnormality, Wednesday offered another glaring example anyway.
The pitching situation for the Dodgers looks like elements for another postseason meltdown are in place, writes columnist Dylan Hernández.
Coronavirus crisis protocols have changed baseball’s usual celebratory customs, prompting Major League Baseball to reportedly ban the spraying of bottled booze in the clubhouse and maintain some social distancing minimums during playoff-clinching ceremonies.
An expanded 16-team playoff field that does little to reward the league’s best teams already had removed much of the suspense from the Dodgers’ final weeks, making postseason qualification feel more like a formality than a long-sought feat.
There was some recognition of the milestone, the Dodgers’ eighth consecutive postseason berth and the first secured by any MLB team this season.
“It’s something you grind for the whole season,” pitcher Dustin May said. “The season is a little shorter, but you still had to grind in the quarantine zone. We’re super excited to be in the position we put ourselves in and are excited to see what the future holds.”
But winning a rubber match over the Padres, the only other contender left in the NL West race, felt like an equally notable development.
“I think it caught us all by surprise; we were so focused on trying to win a series,” Roberts said. “I think word will travel once we get on the plane. It should be celebrated for sure.”
In his first big-league outing, Tony Gonsolin got through seven innings, allowing one run and four hits in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Padres.
Roberts last week predicted the Dodgers’ playoff-clinching celebration might be “tempered” and that his team would “be mindful of the social distancing.”
“But, I hope our guys want to celebrate,” he added, “because it’s nothing that we should take for granted.”
It was hardly unexpected, however. For the Dodgers, reaching the playoffs has felt like a given for weeks but was doing little to fill the void of past postseason failures. Even Roberts’ reaction upon finally learning of the accomplishment seemed somewhat subdued.
“It’s different,” the fifth-year manager said. “We still have a lot of baseball to play, but it’s a credit to those guys in the clubhouse.”
Loftier accomplishments surely will be met with more enthusiasm. The team has a 3½-game lead in the NL West and reduced its magic number — the combined total of Dodgers wins and Padres losses needed to clinch the division — to six. The Dodgers are almost certain to play a best-of-three wild card series at home and likely will be seen as favorites to win a third National League pennant in four years.
And even with the World Series set to be held at a neutral site more than 1,000 miles away from Southern California, snapping the franchise’s decades-long championship drought would be met with a delirious response.
All of which contributed to the understated nature of the playoff-clinching scene Wednesday. The Dodgers hope there is more to come.
As Roberts put it, “I thought it was a good series to win, but that’s the first step.”
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