Dodgers clinch their 10th NL West title in 11 years: ‘We were expecting to do this’

Dodgers players celebrate in the visiting team clubhouse at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
Dodgers players celebrate after clinching the National League West division title Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Mariners.
(Maddy Grassy / Associated Press)
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It feels like ages ago. Before the Dodgers’ slow start to the season. Before their torrid run through August. Before their pitching staff fell apart and their postseason fate was cast under a cloud of uncertainty.

When the Dodgers opened the season, they weren’t widely expected to win the National League West. They were picked by many for a regression in the standings. They were anything but a guarantee for a 10th division title in 11 years.

Yet with still three weeks to go, baseball’s most dominant regular-season franchise of the last decade collected another piece of familiar hardware, clinching the NL West crown in dramatic fashion Saturday with a 6-2, extra-inning win over the Seattle Mariners.


Miguel Rojas hit a two-run home run and James Outman hits his 20th home run of the season in the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Sept. 15, 2023

“I think everybody talked about what we didn’t do [in the offseason], but we still had Mookie, we still had Freddie, it’s not like we were underdogs by any means,” said Clayton Kershaw, who pitched four scoreless innings in what became his fifth career start in a division-clinching game.

“It wasn’t like a ‘silence the doubters’ kind of moment,” Kershaw added, standing shirtless and beer-soaked in a plastic-wrapped postgame clubhouse. “We were expecting to do this. We were supposed to do this. But it doesn’t make it any less special.”

After surviving nine scoreless innings at T-Mobile Park, then trading runs with the Mariners in the 10th, the Dodgers finally prevailed in the 11th, exploding for a five-run rally that cemented what had been clear for months:

Despite injuries to every member of their opening day rotation, a rotating cast of young players and veteran faces in important roles, and a sluggish start to the campaign that saw the team languishing in third place into late June, the Dodgers were once again the class of the division, popping champagne bottles Saturday night after stretching their first-place lead to 13½ games.

“The amount that this group has overcome — it’s hard to compare years to other years — but this feels as together and united of a group that I’ve ever been around,” said Andrew Friedman, who has overseen the club’s last eight division titles as president of baseball operations. “It’s been a really special year, with what feels like a lot of things we’ve dealt with.”

Added manager Dave Roberts: “For me, this is the most fun I’ve had managing. Certainly the players are a big part of it. And to see those guys celebrate one another, pull for one another, sacrifice for each other, it makes my job that much more joyful.”

Dodgers' Jason Heyward celebrates in front of Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford after hitting a double.
The Dodgers’ Jason Heyward celebrates in front of Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford after hitting a double in the seventh inning Saturday.
(Maddy Grassy / Associated Press)

Whether Saturday’s celebration was the starting point for a deep October run, or the climax for a shorthanded club in danger of fizzling out yet again in the postseason, remains unclear.

The Dodgers’ rotation is still unsettled, continuing to scramble in the absence of Julio Urías (whose is all but certain to spend the rest of the year on administrative leave following his arrest this month on suspicion of domestic violence) as well as Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Walker Buehler (who will all miss October because of injuries).

Their lineup is still prone to boom-or-bust swings, epitomized Saturday by the quiet nine innings that preceded their division-clinching outburst in extras.

Even their path through the playoffs seems tricky, where the reward for advancing through the NLDS would likely be a meeting with the top-seeded Atlanta Braves.

“Obviously,” Kershaw said, “[tonight] is not the ultimate goal.”

Walker Buehler seemed to be coming down the stretch of his 13-month rehab from Tommy John surgery, but the recovery process was taking longer than he anticipated.

Sept. 14, 2023

Yet, Saturday’s win also offered a reflective reprieve — with the Dodgers (90-57) not only beating a fellow postseason contender in the Mariners (81-67), but doing so in a style that highlighted what those in the organization believe are the team’s defining characteristics.

On the mound, there was a veteran in Kershaw (whose workload was limited after skipping a start last week amid his battles with a lingering shoulder injury) passing the baton to a rookie in Emmet Sheehan (who pitched three scoreless innings in a promising sign for his potential October usage).


At the plate, there was an 11th-inning rally keyed more by the bats further down the lineup — including a tie-breaking, two-strike single from Max Muncy, and two-run knocks from Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández that provided insurance — than the superstar duo of Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman at the top.

“Tonight, people saw who this team is, what this team is about,” said Roberts, who has now been at the helm for seven division championships. “I think we used 20 guys tonight to win one game. But that’s OK. That just speaks to the depth and how much guys care for one another.”

The postgame clubhouse scene might have been most telling.

Instead of Freeman, Betts or even Kershaw — who, as a pending free agent yet again this winter, could be in the midst of his final Dodgers season — making speeches in the middle of the room, the team-wide addresses came from Miguel Rojas and Jason Heyward, a pair of veteran offseason acquisitions who have emerged as important voices for a new-look roster.

“That’s what’s so awesome about this team,” Freeman said. “It’s not only the rookies. It’s not only the Claytons. It’s everyone that’s pulling on the same rope.”

Dodgers players celebrate and pose for a team photo after clinching the NL West title in a victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Dodgers players celebrate and pose for a team photo after clinching the NL West title in a victory over the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Saturday night.
(Maddy Grassy / Associated Press)

Indeed, with one final heave Saturday, the Dodgers finally proved the preseason prognostications wrong.

And though plenty more doubts remain in the road ahead, their postgame party offered a staunch, booze-soaked statement. These Dodgers have overcome long odds already. And they’re certain they have the ability to keep doing it again.


“There’s no one way to win 11 games in October,” Roberts said. “But, 1 through 26, tonight really exemplified how we can win a baseball game.”