Dodgers can start planning for postseason

LA secures its 10th straight trip to playoffs, eyes NL West title next

September 12th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- In postseason bingo, the Dodgers are the free square.

Los Angeles qualified for the playoffs for the 10th straight season by defeating the Padres, 11-2, on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park. The Dodgers are the first team in 2022 to secure a postseason berth, and with a 96-43 record, they appear to be cruising toward home-field advantage in any series they play.

The Dodgers’ decade-long streak of playoff seasons puts them third all-time in AL/NL history. They trail only the Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005, excluding the 1994 strike season) and the Yankees (13 straight from 1995-2007).

“It’s something that I feel should be acknowledged,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who offered a champagne toast in a postgame clubhouse that otherwise stayed dry. “It’s an accomplishment. But we have a lot of work to do.”

Technically, with scheduling quirks and three- and four-team tiebreaker possibilities, the Dodgers have not statistically clinched a berth, but for all intents and purposes, Los Angeles is in.

The next order of business for L.A. is to wrap up the National League West title. The Dodgers reduced their magic number for their next clinch to two. Any combination of two Dodgers wins or Padres losses brings a ninth division title during the 10-year playoff run.

The Dodgers’ stretch outlook:

• Games remaining: 23
• NL West magic number: 2
• MLB best record magic number: 18

There was no on-field dogpile. The visible celebration consisted of the usual postgame handshake line. The champagne for Roberts’ toast was poured into flutes in an orderly fashion, not sprayed about the room.

“It just goes to show how much success these guys have all had,” said winning pitcher , in his first season with the Dodgers. “They’ve been part of great teams. This is the first time I’ve been on a playoff team. I was joking with the guys -- ho-hum for them, but this is a big deal for me.”

The Dodgers’ playoff clincher came in typical fashion -- with relentless offense and stoicism when trailing. The Dodgers erased an early two-run deficit on solo home runs by and Chris Taylor in the fifth inning against Padres starter Joe Musgrove, then went up by two on Max Muncy’s two-run single in the sixth.

Once the Dodgers started adding on against the San Diego bullpen, their first clinch celebration of 2022 became inevitable. Turner’s second homer of the game, a grand slam in the seventh inning, provided an exclamation mark. It was L.A.’s 42nd comeback win of the season, the most in the Majors.

“I don’t think you ever take it for granted,” Turner said of the Dodgers’ regular postseason visits. “I feel fortunate to be a part of an organization that cares about winning and puts winning first.”

The 2022 Dodgers have been in first place since June 18. They pushed their lead in the standings to double digits by July 17. And now they’ve doubled that to 20 games by gaining a series win against the Padres for the eighth straight time.

Perhaps the key to being a free square is to never acknowledge it. The 2022 Dodgers are every bit as focused as the 106-win version of 2021 that battled the Giants to the final day of the regular season before yielding the division crown.

“It’s who we are,” Roberts said. “It’s a very smart group. It’s a very focused group. And we have a long way to go to accomplish our goals. So I think we understand that if you look at yourself as a ballclub and set a certain standard of play, then it allows you to realize your goals.”

Here’s the scary thought for the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and anyone else trying to get between the Dodgers and their goals: L.A. might be getting better.

Turner’s 14th multihomer game continued an upward trend: batting .336 with a .981 OPS since the All-Star break. Taylor was in a month-long funk since returning from a left foot fracture, but he had a hit in each game of the three-game series. Muncy had had three straight three-RBI games.

Get those three going behind the MVP-level trio of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner, and you’ve got a deep lineup few pitchers would be able to navigate. Musgrove, an All-Star, certainly was unable to.

“Things are starting to fall in place,” Freeman said. “These guys are getting hot right when we want them to.”

Which could mean more champagne on ice.