Dodgers beat Athletics to clinch their eighth consecutive NL West title
The high-fives and hugs were subdued. Piped-in crowd noise filled the background as “I Love L.A.” serenaded the cutouts in attendance at Dodger Stadium. T-shirts and hats were distributed before the Dodgers, some wearing masks, gathered in the middle of the infield for a team photo and exited to a clubhouse where an alcohol-soaked celebration was prohibited.
The Dodgers clinched their eighth consecutive National League West title with a 7-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night, and it was unlike any of the first seven.
“It’s really strange,” Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock said. “We’re on the field and the crowd is going nuts and you’re looking at each other and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, we’re the only ones here.’ It was bizarre, but it’s still special.”
They reached the goal in their 55th game with five games to spare in this pandemic-shortened season with help from the Angels, who beat the San Diego Padres about an hour earlier. In the clubhouse, a few people gave speeches and the team toasted with champagne. COVID-19 forced a muted celebration of an accomplishment expected since they reported for spring training in February but not given.
“They all count,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said. “You can’t take it for granted. You can’t assume this every year, and we’ve been on a pretty special run. It’s been really fun to be a part of.”
A 2020 division title celebration. pic.twitter.com/IigRpIRlkY— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) September 23, 2020
Tuesday’s win also ensured the Dodgers (39-16) the No. 1 seed in the National League for the expanded 16-team postseason. They’ll play Game 1 of the wild-card round next Wednesday in Los Angeles. The opponent is a No. 8-seeded club to be determined.
“I recall a time a few months ago where I didn’t know if we were even going to have a season this year,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So, to now fast-forward and be crowned NL West champs again, it’s a credit to everyone in that clubhouse and everybody in the organization.”
The next objective is winning their first World Series since 1988. Having Justin Turner healthy and available will be crucial in that pursuit. But the third baseman isn’t 100% a week before the start of the playoffs.
The Dodgers’ original lineup Tuesday had Turner starting at third base for the first time since he strained his left hamstring Aug. 28. He returned last week, but his first five games were as the club’s designated hitter. Roberts said Turner would play five or six innings at third base Tuesday as he eased back into the more intensive role. The start was supposed to be a step forward.
But Turner was scratched from the lineup two hours before first pitch and Edwin Ríos started in his place. After the game, Roberts said Turner had a “cramp” in the hamstring. Turner informed him he would like to play Wednesday, but Roberts said that decision will be made when they report to the ballpark.
The Dodgers didn’t need him Tuesday. They crushed four home runs and received five solid innings from Dustin May to beat the best team they’ve played this season not named the Padres a day after the Athletics (33-21) clinched the American League West title.
With it, they continued a run that began in 2013. Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen are the only Dodgers left from that club. The coaching staff, front office and roster have since been overhauled, but the run has continued through the strangest season to date.
“This among other years is probably the most challenging,” Roberts said.
The question now is whether the Dodgers can win the ultimate championship with a World Series triumph. They’ll have to win 13 games starting next week to do so.
“The plan is to win the World Series,” Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts said. “This is just step one.”
Three takeaways for the Dodgers
1. Joc Pederson started at DH and went one for four with two strikeouts in his first game since coming off the family medical emergency list. Manager Dave Roberts said Pederson’s family matter could force him to leave the team before the season is over but added he expects Pederson will remain with the team at least through the wild-card round.
2. The Dodgers unveiled a four-man outfield for the first time this season in the eighth inning with Matt Olson, a left-handed hitter, at the plate. Chris Taylor moved to the outfield from second base, leaving Corey Seager, Edwin Ríos and Max Muncy in the infield. Olson struck out against Pedro Báez.
3. The Philadelphia Phillies entered Tuesday as the No. 8 seed — projected to face the Dodgers in the wild-card round — before getting swept by the Washington Nationals in a doubleheader to fall to 27-29.
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