Dodgers' post-clinch plan? 'Push every day'

September 18th, 2023

SEATTLE -- The Dodgers keep rolling, and the celebratory vibes continued on a sunny Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.

The day after popping champagne corks and partying into the night following a win that clinched a 10th National League West title in the last 11 years, Los Angeles completed a three-game road sweep of the Mariners with a relatively tidy 6-1 victory before a packed house of 45,477 fans.

The win was accomplished despite MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman taking the day off and despite it being a “bullpen game,” with serving as the team’s one-inning-only “opener” and left-hander (4 2/3 innings, one run, seven strikeouts) and righty (3 1/3 scoreless innings, one hit, five strikeouts) filling in for the rest of the work.

“Like I've said before, you can't simulate the postseason, but what you can do is put guys in some different spots, give them some opportunities to go out there and perform,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And this environment right here is as good of a test for any young player or veteran player.”

The Mariners have been all-out to win games lately because they are in the heat of the American League West and Wild Card races and have been slumping over the last two weeks, but the Dodgers proved too tough.

On Sunday, finished a home run short of the cycle, finished a triple short of the cycle and hit a first-inning homer off Logan Gilbert, chipped in with a two-run blast in the second, and added a solo shot to center field in the eighth.

Heyward, who was hitting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup customarily occupied by Freeman, had three hits to follow up his Saturday game, when he went 4-for-5 with three doubles. He now has 24 multi-hit games and 12 games with two or more RBIs this season.

“He's had a tremendous season,” Roberts said. “He's an even better teammate. What he's done for our guys, veteran guys, young guys … he's a good guy, and right now, he's on a heater, man. He’s swinging the bat so well, he's controlling the strike zone, and when they make a mistake, or even a 3-2 split down below, he's hitting it hard. He's playing Gold Glove defense. Offensively, he's a threat, and he had a huge series.”

The veteran outfielder, who won the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs, said it’s important for the Dodgers to keep pushing through the end of the regular season, even though they’ve already locked up the division.

“The finish line, to us, is that we want to be the last team on the field, winning whenever the last game is, and that's to try to win every day,” Heyward said. “We prepare. We don't think about what's going on next or what happened before. We’ve got to go right now. And I think that is just the epitome of our group. So there's no thoughts of the finish line or ‘keep pushing.’ We just push every day.”

Barnes, whose homer was his second of the season, agreed.

“When you just have a bunch of competitors, you go out there and you play the game,” Barnes said. “You don't ever want to get out there and get embarrassed. Now obviously, those games mean a lot to [the Mariners], so we went out there and tried to compete, and we did a great job.”

Now, the Dodgers return home to Los Angeles for seven games, their final homestand of the regular season. Roberts said the team is in a groove and likes its chances in the leadup to October.

“Obviously, this was such a great series,” Roberts said. “[We’re] going into this next series with a loaded bullpen and we've got Lance [Lynn] going tomorrow, so I feel good.”