Dodgers prep for playoffs in record 106th win

September 30th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy won three World Series managing the Giants, but his era ended Sunday with a 9-0 loss to the rival Dodgers, who in the process set a franchise record with a 106th victory and a National League West record with a 21-game winning margin.

“All those great teams in Dodgers history, it takes a lot to accomplish all we’ve accomplished as a group and organization,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Very proud of everyone, top to bottom. It’s something no one can take away from us.”

While Bochy was being honored at Oracle Park after the regular-season finale, Roberts and the Dodgers in their clubhouse reflected on a season to remember. They finished it with a seven-game win streak, reassuring outings by Rich Hill and Joe Kelly, and even a surprising relief appearance by that turned into a magical moment when he retired pinch-hitter Madison Bumgarner, in what was possibly Bumgarner’s final Giants appearance.

Roberts said he was especially proud that the team remained focused to win a Game 162 when a lot of teams have “one foot on the airplane, just trying to get through the game, but we were locked in.”

A five-run first inning -- three-run double by , two-run homer by -- set the record in motion and Roberts used eight relievers, keeping them sharp while gleaning late information for the final roster decisions.

Here’s one of them: Roberts indicated that he “feels really good” about Hill pitching in Game 4 of the National League Division Series after a scoreless three-inning outing, void of the grimaces that accompanied his two-inning start in San Diego on Tuesday.

Hill, 39, has been determined to return after missing nearly three months with a strained flexor tendon in his left forearm. He had to leave his first start back from that injury in the first inning with knee pain, which was determined to be tearing of scar tissue from a Spring Training knee injury.

“Ball came out great, a really good day with the curveball,” said Hill, who threw an extra inning in the bullpen and said he expects to start Game 4. “When you can put the curve wherever you want, that’s my weapon to get guys out, it means a lot.”

Kershaw shrugged off his relief outing as the equivalent of a between-starts throw day. In truth, it doubled as practice for anticipated October bullpen duty in addition to his starts, so the one perfect inning figures to be a sign of things to come if there’s a Game 5 in the NLDS. Because of that, Kershaw seems most likely to start Game 2, but the Dodgers are not announcing their rotation until their opponent is determined on Tuesday.

“Felt today was a good day to get that adrenaline spike of pitching in a game,” Kershaw said. “Now I’ll work backwards from there and reset the clock until I make my start.”

His first regular-season relief outing since 2009 coincidentally brought out looming free agent Bumgarner, who lined out to third baseman Jedd Gyorko. Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger noted that Kershaw was sporting about it, throwing all fastballs to Bumgarner. When his inning ended, Kershaw tipped his cap to Bochy.

“It was a nice at-bat for everyone in the game of baseball,” said Turner.

From Kershaw’s inning, to a perfect inning by 21-year-old , to six pitches that retired two batters, there was nothing routine or meaningless about this game for the Dodgers.

It was Kelly’s first appearance since Sept. 18, sidelined by an unspecified ailment. He looked good if you didn’t blink, because he retired the only two batters he faced on six pitches and was removed.

“Just getting out there and getting in game speed was good,” said Kelly. “Stuff was sharp. No problem getting loose. I’ll be good [by Thursday]. I’ll be able to [go back-to-back].”

This was May’s eighth consecutive scoreless appearance, which seems to be enough to get him a postseason job.

Turner -- who missed his fifth consecutive start with a bad back but insisted he “totally plans on being in there Thursday and I’ll do whatever it takes to do that” -- said the 106 wins means the Dodgers retained their focus even after they had locked up a seventh consecutive division title nearly three weeks ago.

“We set the record and won our last seven against teams we could have just shown up and easily taken it for granted and lose those games,” Turner said. “We finished strong, have that momentum going into the playoffs and not having to deal with the collapse of ‘17 (losing 16 of 17). Good not to talk about that.”