Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

'World Series or bust' for playoff-bound Dodgers

After clinching NL West, Los Angeles eyes first title since 1988
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- For the fifth consecutive year, the Dodgers have won the National League West. They can lock up home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the postseason with any combination of Los Angeles wins and Washington losses totaling four.

• Dress for success: Get NL West champions gear

Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- For the fifth consecutive year, the Dodgers have won the National League West. They can lock up home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the postseason with any combination of Los Angeles wins and Washington losses totaling four.

• Dress for success: Get NL West champions gear

Full Game Coverage

"We been winning for five years now, and I'm desperate for that ring, y'all," closer Kenley Jansen said, addressing the entire team in the clubhouse before Friday's celebration at Dodger Stadium. "Let's get it right. This is Step One."

Five in a row is a dynasty for some franchises, but not for a team that hasn't won the World Series since 1988. For this year's Dodgers, clinching the division is as much a relief as an accomplishment.

Tweet from @kenleyjansen74: we're desperate for that 💍... #step1 let's get it right @Dodgers #postseason pic.twitter.com/BNqU6DVHFy

"Get it over with, get it out of the way, refocus and move on," shortstop Corey Seager said after Friday's 4-2 win over the Giants.

In the National League Division Series, the Dodgers will face either the winner of the NL Wild Card Game -- either the D-backs, Rockies, Brewers or Cardinals -- or the Cubs. Another potential postseason opponent is the Nationals, who they could face in the NLCS.

The Dodgers were 3-3 against the Nationals this year and 4-2 against the Cubs. Washington has clinched the NL East, while Chicago has a five-game lead in the NL Central.

Against the D-backs, who currently hold the top Wild Card spot, the Dodgers went 8-11 this year and had particular trouble against left-handed starter Robbie Ray (3-0, 2.27 ERA against L.A. this year). Against the Rockies, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot, the Dodgers are 7-9. They play a three-game series at Colorado on the final weekend of the regular season.

The Brewers and Cardinals are also still in the Wild Card race. Against Milwaukee, the Dodgers went 3-3. They went 4-3 against St. Louis.

The best-of-five NLDS is a 2-2-1 format, opening with games Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7; a travel day on Sunday, Oct. 8; Games 3 and 4 (if Game 4 is necessary) Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 9-10; a travel day Wednesday, Oct. 11; and a Game 5 (if necessary) on Thursday, Oct. 12. TBS will televise the series. The NL Championship Series begins Saturday, Oct. 14.

Video: Must C Clinch: Dodgers take NL West division with win

With five home games remaining, the Dodgers are 53-23 at Dodger Stadium, the best home record in MLB and two wins shy of the Los Angeles record. But at 45-33, the Dodgers also have the second best road record in the NL behind the Nationals, who the Dodgers beat in last year's five-game NLDS without home-field advantage.

"Everybody knows it's World Series or bust," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, putting Friday night's champagne party in perspective.

Video: SF@LAD: Jansen fans Jones to clinch the division

Most current Dodgers hadn't been born yet, and ace Clayton Kershaw was still in diapers, the last time the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988. Kershaw is one of their biggest question marks entering the postseason, because so much is expected from the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. And two consecutive seasons dealing with back injuries may have jeopardized Kershaw's title as best pitcher in baseball.

Another big question mark is Seager, who has been playing through an unspecified elbow injury that could require offseason surgery. The Dodgers' latest injury is a bruised thumb suffered by third baseman Justin Turner on Thursday.

Along with Kershaw not pitching like himself since his September return from the disabled list, Yu Darvish has been more erratic than the Dodgers had hoped after acquiring him to be the No. 2 starter. Alex Wood has shaken off a sternum injury to show glimpses of his All-Star first half, while veteran Rich Hill is liable to throw a perfect game any start.

That leaves management turning to starter Kenta Maeda for right-handed relief, which leads to the real dilemma -- who sets up for Jansen, now that Pedro Baez, a mainstay for almost five seasons, seems to have lost it. Brandon Morrow could inherit the role, although the light usage of Jansen should refresh him for an October of multiple-innings appearances, at which he thrived last postseason.

Manager Dave Roberts also has lineup decisions at left field, second base and catcher. Curtis Granderson was acquired to play left, but his September has been suboptimal. Andre Ethier has made a late run after a serious injury, as he did last year. Enrique Hernandez starts in left against lefties.

At catcher, Austin Barnes has encroached on Yasmani Grandal's playing time with a nice all-around season, while ageless Chase Utley has recently taken starts from Logan Forsythe in the second-base platoon. There will be difficult bench decisions, among those whether there's room to carry Gonzalez as a left-handed bat off the bench, especially with Ethier getting more playing time recently.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers