While the Dodgers were beating the Angels in the regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon, 5-0, a scramble took place at four sites to determine that Milwaukee will face them in the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series that opens on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
But manager Dave Roberts said he wasn’t even minding the scores.
“I had no idea and, not to be crass, I just really don’t care,” Roberts said of the outcome, which sets up a rematch of the Dodgers’ seven-game win in the 2018 National League Championship Series. “I’m just happy we came out of this feeling good and ready to go. We feel we’re the best team out there, and we’ve got to go out there and play regardless of the opponent. I can’t wait.”
Except for the eighth inning -- when things got weird and reliever Adam Kolarek played right field -- the game Sunday was a template for regular-season and postseason success. The Dodgers got the long ball from AJ Pollock twice, patiently allowed Angels starter Patrick Sandoval to walk the bases loaded in a two-run third inning, exploited sloppy defense and paraded live arms to the mound.
The Dodgers didn’t even need Mookie Betts, who rested his sore left hip. Pollock replaced Betts leading off and has batted in all nine spots in the order, reflecting the roster’s complete buy-in to management’s insistence on team concept.
The juggling hasn’t stopped Pollock from slugging 10 home runs this month and tying Betts for the club lead with 16 in a year in which his daughter was born four months prematurely and he contracted COVID-19.
“It’s character,” Roberts said of Pollock’s willing attitude. “AJ has high character. He’s all-in with me and the ballclub to think about his teammates, and that is a credit to him.”
The Dodgers compiled a Major League-best 43-17 record having played only three teams (Oakland, Houston, San Diego) that reached the postseason. The favorable schedule continues, as the Brewers finished with a losing record (29-31). But under any circumstances, a .717 winning percentage is no small achievement. It ranks sixth all time and earned the Dodgers the last at-bat advantage throughout the postseason.
That makes the Dodgers, who went 10-2 to end the regular season, the first NL team with a .700-plus win percentage since the 1909 Pirates (110-42, .724). Their longest losing streak was two games. They also joined the 2001 Mariners as the only teams since World War II to lead the Majors in runs scored and ERA.
The Dodgers' offense this season blew away the competition in home runs and run differential. Their bullpen is the best in the league, prompting management to stray from tradition and shift workload there from a young starting rotation.
One of those young starters, Dustin May (3-1), was the bulk reliever and winner in this game, striking out five in four innings as a prep for a similar role in the first round. May’s one troubling sign was issuing a pair of leadoff walks, which is not what you want in the postseason.
With the win, the Dodgers swept the Angels 6-0 in the season series and finished Interleague Play 16-4. This was the pitching staff’s fifth shutout, and the Dodgers had the only offense in the Majors that was not blanked this year.