Dodgers' division dynasty lives on with 10th NL West title in 11 years

September 17th, 2023

SEATTLE – The scenes of joy and streams of champagne washed through the visitors' clubhouse at T-Mobile Park on Saturday night as the Dodgers celebrated a National League West title.

They had beaten the Mariners, 6-2, in 11 innings to seal the long-expected division crown, their 10th in the last 11 seasons. They were ready to let loose while also realizing there’s much to do to get to where they want to go.

And, like most of the 2023 season that continues to unfold, it wasn’t exactly easy.

The Dodgers and Mariners were locked in a scoreless battle until the 10th, when each team scored a run. Then the Dodgers took care of business with a five-run top of the 11th to put it away.

Max Muncy singled in Mookie Betts from second base, Chris Taylor singled in two more runs, Kiké Hernández added a two-run hit, and the Dodgers ran into their plastic-lined clubhouse to live it up a little and, at least for one night, reflect on what got them here.

“I’ve been saying that it could be the last one for a long time,” said veteran staff ace Clayton Kershaw, who started Saturday’s game and pitched four scoreless innings.

“Every year’s different, but you just can’t take it for granted. It’s a special thing to get to celebrate with the guys that work so hard throughout the whole year to achieve a goal like this. Obviously it’s not the ultimate goal, but to be able to do this, to get to have a night to celebrate with your teammates is so special. There’s guys that go their whole careers without getting to do this one time.”

The Dodgers rode sterling seasons from their top two hitters, Betts and Freddie Freeman, to the top of the NL West and never looked back, despite injuries to their starting rotation that left them without Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin for extended stretches of the season.

They filled in the gaps with an excellent early season from Kershaw, a promising rookie campaign from starter Bobby Miller, brilliant bullpen work and contributions from all over their roster. 

Muncy put up elite power numbers. Catcher Will Smith continued to shine at the plate and behind it. J.D. Martinez provided pop from the middle of the lineup. And role players David Peralta, Jason Heyward and Amed Rosario, among others, solidified a stout offensive attack.

On Saturday after the win, manager Dave Roberts made sure to take some time to simply observe his club’s first clinching party of 2023. He basked in the camaraderie on display and described it as a mere continuation of the tight-knit brotherhood that has enabled this year’s Dodgers to overcome injuries and prevail once again.

“There’s nothing better than popping champagne,” Roberts said. “This is the most fun I’ve had managing. Certainly the players are a big part of this, and to watch those guys celebrate with one another, pull for one another, sacrifice for each other, makes my job that much more joyful.”

On Saturday, Kershaw rebounded from 10 days off with an effective stint. He walked two batters in the first inning but none after that and turned in a 56-pitch outing that the Dodgers hope will progress to something bigger in his next outing.

The Dodgers bullpen continued to shine, with Emmet Sheehan, Alex Vesia, Ryan Brasier, Brusdar Graterol, Evan Phillips and Joe Kelly combining for seven innings of one-run ball.

And the Los Angeles offense erupted at the right time, when the team needed it the most.

Back in the clubhouse, the Dodgers toasted to this first step in what they hope will be an October with three more booze-soaked celebrations.

“It’s a great team, a very talented team, and we have a tough road ahead of us,” Martinez said. “Obviously we’re not thinking about this. We’re thinking about the future. We’re trying to get to the World Series.

“Our lineup is deep, our pitching is deep, and for us to experience the injuries we had and to be able to have young guys just step in and play their roles, it seems like we’ve always had an answer. Every time someone’s gone down, someone steps in.”

Freeman echoed Martinez, saying the team’s togetherness is what sets it apart.

“We’re all on the same page,” Freeman said. “We all love each other. We’re pulling for each other. This is something special to be a part of.

“What a fun experience. Just wonderful so far.”