LOS ANGELES -- Start the countdown and put the bubbly on ice. The Dodgers are getting closer to winning the National League West for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
Given their dominant stretch over the last two months, it’s been a matter of when, not if, the Dodgers will win the NL West. It hasn’t quite happened yet, but it’s all getting real following a 9-4 win over the Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
Because the Dodgers locked up the season series against the Padres with their 10th win of the head-to-head matchup, Los Angeles’ magic number to win the division dropped from 12 to nine with the victory. The earliest they can clinch a postseason spot is Friday.
“I didn’t realize it was nine,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “It was just a good series. Obviously, those guys are playing with a lot of urgency. It’s good to see us play well tonight, win a series. Still a lot of baseball, but I’m just encouraged.”
Not only did the Dodgers move closer to reclaiming the NL West, but they did it in emphatic fashion. After dropping the first game of the series on Friday, the Dodgers made quite the statement to wrap up the three-game set. Over the last two games, the Dodgers outscored the Padres by 16 runs (21-5).
Of course, the Dodgers’ dominance this season hasn’t been exclusive to the Padres. Los Angeles leads the Majors with 716 runs, 50 more than the Braves. Even with a plethora of injuries, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has been just as dominant, limiting opponents to 422 runs, 16 fewer than the Astros.
Sunday’s game was a prime example of what has made the Dodgers so good this season. Bulk pitcher Ryan Pepiot struggled with his command and forced the bullpen to throw more innings than Roberts would’ve liked. Evan Phillips, their best reliever this season, even looked a bit shaky, allowing his first earned run since July 21.
But on a night when the pitching didn’t show its best, the Dodgers’ offense picked up the slack. Will Smith got the Dodgers on the board, smashing his 21st homer of the season in the fourth inning.
However, it was Trayce Thompson who delivered the dagger, smacking a three-run homer off left-hander Adrian Morejon. Since being acquired to hit left-handers, Thompson has been significantly better against right-handers, coming into Sunday’s game with a 1.101 OPS against righties as opposed to .539 against southpaws.
“He’s been huge, man,” Betts said of Thompson. “Playing great defense, timely hitting. He’s been hitting all year, so it’s not luck. He’s a really good player.”
After falling short against the Giants in 2021, the Dodgers learned just how difficult the road in the postseason is when you don’t win your division. It was the first time in nearly a decade they had to navigate through a Wild Card Game. By the time they met the Braves in the NLCS, the Dodgers were gassed.
Coming into this season, the Dodgers’ ultimate goal is to win the World Series. In order to get there, however, winning the division comes first. At 92-41, the Dodgers have positioned themselves better than anybody in the game.
In fact, they are on pace to break the franchise record of 106 wins. If they get really hot, they could come close to the 2001 Mariners’ record (116). Whether the Dodgers set records remains to be seen, but another division title is a certainty. And the countdown has officially commenced.
“You definitely want to win the division. It gives you a little bit of an easier road in the postseason,” Smith said. “But we just take it one game at a time and not try to look too far away. Just try to win today and tomorrow be back at it.”