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Dodgers clinch playoff spot, force NL West tie

Machado hits go-ahead RBI triple in eighth for signature LA moment
September 29, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been a grind, to use a favorite Dodgers word, but they finally secured a postseason spot on Saturday with a 10-6 win over the Giants at AT&T Park that clinched no worse than a Wild Card berth with a sixth consecutive National League West title

SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been a grind, to use a favorite Dodgers word, but they finally secured a postseason spot on Saturday with a 10-6 win over the Giants at AT&T Park that clinched no worse than a Wild Card berth with a sixth consecutive National League West title still possible.
Manny Machado, acquired to fill the hole at shortstop created by Corey Seager's season-ending injury, delivered his defining moment as a Dodger with a tie-breaking, eighth-inning RBI triple off Mark Melancon. Teammates poured it on with a two-out, four-run ninth to cement their sixth consecutive postseason berth, trailing only the 1991-2005 Braves (14 seasons) and the '95-'07 Yankees (13 seasons) for the longest such streaks in MLB history, according to Stats LLC.
Shop for Dodgers postseason gear | Top 10 Dodgers moments this season
The Dodgers can still win the NL West after the Rockies lost, 12-2, to the Nationals on Saturday. A win by the Dodgers on Sunday and a loss by Colorado will give Los Angeles another division title. Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers on Sunday, as the club decided to save Walker Buehler for either a potential tiebreaker game on Monday or the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
If the teams finished tied, the Dodgers and Rockies will play a tiebreaker in Los Angeles on Monday to determine the division champion, with the loser going to the Wild Card Game.
Schedule for potential NL tiebreakers
If the Dodgers finish second to the Rockies, Saturday's win clinched the second Wild Card spot, meaning they would play either the Cubs or Brewers, whichever club finishes second in the NL Central, on the road at 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

After what manager Dave Roberts called an "awkward" moment on the field after Sunday's last out, with a traditional line of handshakes as if it was a mid-May game, the Dodgers let loose in the clubhouse with a more traditional celebration, spraying champagne and beer -- not the least bit embarrassed about how they've reached the postseason.
"I think we're the best team, and I've said it," Roberts said. "Mostly, we've got to go out there and play like it. I think we can be as dangerous as anyone, but it's up to us to play like it. One part of the equation is to get an invite. We have that. Now we have to take it from there."

The Dodgers won this game despite ace Clayton Kershaw letting two leads get away and lasting only five innings. Until Machado's triple off the right-field wall scored Chris Taylor, the Dodgers were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, having stranded five runners over the sixth and seventh innings. Roberts even had to use Kenley Jansen despite a five-run lead after Zachary Rosscup walked the leadoff batter and recorded an out in the ninth.
Machado, acquired in a 5-for-1 deal with the Orioles, has hit .269 with an .824 OPS since arriving. But as the marquee name dealt before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he has been under the microscope, drawing as much needling for not hustling as praise for his dazzling defense and the intangible benefit of having a feared bat behind Justin Turner.
"We said it in the beginning, no one person has the ability to carry a team, in my opinion," Roberts said. "I still think the production he's had, the shortstop play, he's been everything we wanted. And there's still a lot of baseball left. His presence to be out there every single day has a lot of value. The raw numbers, average or whatever people look at, there's been big hits and consistent defense to help our pitching staff. I hope that doesn't go unnoticed."

Machado was enjoying the postgame chaos as much as any Dodger.
"I try to do everything possible," Machado said of living up to expectations. "I try to help everyone, help the young kids, help the ballclub in whatever way I can, bring my knowledge to the table. Like I said before, this ain't over. This is just a little tease."
It was an uncharacteristic struggle against the Giants for Kershaw, who conceivably was pitching in his last game as a Dodger with an opt-out for free agency this offseason. He was unable to protect leads of 2-0 and 5-3 (provided by his two-run single) in a no-decision, allowed five runs (his most ever to the Giants) in five innings and finished the regular season 9-5, his fewest wins since going 8-8 in 2009.
"It's never good when I'm a better hitter than I am a pitcher. That's what it was today," Kershaw said. "For these guys to pick me up like they did today -- I think we had 18 hits today -- it's just really special to be a part of. You know, this game in particular just kind of showed the kind of team that we have."

Kershaw said he didn't know what the future would hold for him as a Dodger, other than hoping for another start.
"There's obviously just so much at stake, and really this whole month, there's been so much at stake that I've been preoccupied," Kershaw said. "I haven't really thought about it. I think I have a good chance to get another start here real soon. That's really all I can think about right now. If we weren't making the playoffs, I probably would have put a lot more thought into where we're going and what I'm doing personally. But right now, I can't do it. There's not enough room up there [in my head] for both."

Roberts said he thought briefly about the possibility Kershaw might no longer be a Dodger, but "eliminated that thought quickly." Instead, Roberts focused on the team achievement.
"You see our guys where everyone's got their footprint on this season, moreso than any season I've been part of," Roberts said, in a reference to the platooning that management pivoted to after accumulating excess talent. "Look at how guys have come together, stayed together through tough times and come out on the other side. I think there's power to that. They're all special, but this is certainly a different way than I've become accustomed to, but still as sweet.
"The thing most gratifying for me … you can talk about every guy we've sold to sacrifice to win a championship. When we can see it through and get to the postseason, there's some satisfaction in that."

Home runs by Joc Pederson (25th) and Yasiel Puig (23rd) extended the Dodgers' NL-leading and franchise-best total to 230. LA is eighth on the NL all-time list for most home runs for a single season, one behind the 231 homers by the 2007 Brewers. More >

"This is just the beginning of it. I think everyone is just getting accustomed to it, getting used to each other. Whenever you can do that, the sky's the limit, I always say. Everybody has a role to do. When we do that, we're the best ballclub out there." -- Machado

The Dodgers announced late Saturday night that Hill would start on Sunday's regular-season finale. Buehler was originally scheduled to start the game against the Giants and Andrew Suarez. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. PT.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001.