SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers weren't even aware they had clinched a postseason berth Tuesday night, but they sure knew that a 5-3 win over the Giants ended the nightmare of an 11-game losing streak.
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"The more losses makes it that much harder to win games, so I'm glad we got this one out of the way," said winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
With a lead over Arizona once 21 games now cut to 10, the Dodgers' magic number to clinch the National League West is down to eight. Even after a tailspin that saw them lose 16 of 17 games, the Dodgers still have the home-field advantage for the postseason with 17 games to play.
Freed from the emotional anchor of the longest losing streak in Los Angeles history, Kershaw said the club can shift back into focus on the ultimate goal.
"Making the postseason is no small feat and you can't take that for granted," he said. "But from where we've been, we want home field, we want the division home field, we want home field throughout the World Series. So we've got a lot of things to keep going for, obviously. I have a feeling we're not going to celebrate this one."
They are seeking a fifth consecutive division title, as well as their first World Series since 1988. Only three weeks ago, they were charging to one of the most dominant seasons on record, with Sports Illustrated's cover asking if they were the "Best. Team. Ever?"
"When you get off to the start we did, teams are going to gun for you, people prepare and they're out to beat you," said manager Dave Roberts. "Now, with the win, we can exhale and reset. You'll see some guys enjoy a win more than typically enjoy a win. That's a good thing. We'll refocus tomorrow. Usually there's handshakes [after wins], but tonight there were hugs."
If they retain the best record, the Dodgers would open the postseason against the winner of the Wild Card Game. Currently, the division-rival D-backs and Rockies are in position for that one-game showdown to advance. The Dodgers are 8-11 against Arizona this year and 7-10 against the Rockies (with a three-game season-ending series in Denver remaining).
The Washington Nationals have already clinched the NL East and the Chicago Cubs are leading the Central, setting up a possible postseason replay of last year for the Dodgers, who beat the Nationals in the best-of-five NL Division Series, but lost to the Cubs in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.
The Dodgers are still in the process of sorting out their starting rotation for the postseason -- Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill leading the pack -- as well as determining who plays left field and how much among Curtis Granderson, Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier. The latter, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, are bidding for roles after missing much of the season with back injuries.