LOS ANGELES (AP) – They made it look oh-so-easy, and made it seem woefully difficult. Now, these Los Angeles Dodgers figure they’re braced for anything.
They’ll get to find out in the postseason after their 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night gave Los Angeles its fifth consecutive NL West title, setting off yet another September party at Dodger Stadium.
“You have to celebrate,” said Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. “You never know if this is the last time you’re going to win a division championship. We’re celebrating, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know there’s more work to do.”
The capper was highlighted by a homer from a player who couldn’t legally drink for most of this division title run. Cody Bellinger set an NL rookie record with his 39th homer, a three-run shot in the third inning. The 22-year-old topped the mark set by Wally Berger in 1930 and matched by Frank Robinson in 1956.
Veteran Rich Hill (11-8) threw six strong innings for the Dodgers, allowing a run, five hits and a walk with nine strikeouts.
“It’s just so special every time you get a chance to celebrate, you have to take advantage of it,” Hill said. “This is something we should really enjoy – for a night.”
Los Angeles will open the NL Division Series at home on Oct. 6. The Dodgers are seeking to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988 under manager Tommy Lasorda, who was on hand at Dodger Stadium to celebrate his 90th birthday.
“This never gets old,” Lasorda said in the clubhouse after the game. He was wearing ski goggles to ward off sprayed sparkling wine.
Los Angeles tied for the third-longest streak of division titles behind Atlanta’s 14 from 1991-2005 and the New York Yankees’ nine from 1998-2006. It was the third time in four years they clinched against the Giants.
“Congrats to them,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “They’ve had a tremendous year. Across the ball, they played really great baseball.”
After a record run that saw the Dodgers push their record to 91-36, they had gone just 6-20 – including a dismal 1-16 stretch – to make clinching their division more laborious than anticipated. Los Angeles stopped a nine-game home losing streak, winning at Chavez Ravine for the first time since Aug. 25.
“We’ve been through some enormous adversity,” Hill said. “With a chance to clinch, everybody tightened their level of play tonight and it led to the win. That will help us in the postseason.”
The Dodgers received a huge lift this season from Bellinger, who started the season in the minors and was not called up until April 25.
His three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (9-15) in the third broke a 1-1 tie and left the Dodgers waiting to celebrate.
“The feeling running the base paths was awesome,” Bellinger said. “I knew it gave us a lead, and knowing the way our bullpen has been pitching, we were confident.
“This is so awesome. You see it on TV, and it looks fun. To actually be part of it, it’s even better. I’m glad to be part of it.”
Samardzija gave up five hits in 4 1/3 innings and surrendered all four runs in the third. At 60-94, the Giants matched their most losses since 1996.
Pablo Sandoval gave the Dodgers a scare when he led off the ninth with a solo home run off Kenley Jansen, but the closer then struck out the side to earn his 40th save and start the celebration.
Last postseason, the Dodgers lost to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series.
“There’s a certain elation going on, but they’re still focused,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “They’re still focused on that sour taste we had in our mouths in Chicago. It hasn’t dissipated.”
Roberts joined Lasorda is the only Dodgers managers to lead the club to division titles in their first two seasons as a manager.
Cleveland lost 3-1 to the Seattle Mariners on Friday, leaving the Dodgers two games up on the Indians for best overall record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Giants: Bochy said OF Austin Slater is dealing with a sore right hip flexor. He could be out for a couple days.
Dodgers: RHP Josh Ravin was placed on the 60-day DL with sore hip and groin, and RHP Brandon McCarthy (knee tendinitis was activated. Roberts said McCarthy will be given a chance to earn a postseason reliever’s role. … 3B Justin Turner did not start because of a sore right thumb hit by a pitch Thursday and because he was dealing with a virus.
Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (3-9, 3.48 ERA) will seek to stop his four-game losing streak. The Giants haven’t won a Bumgarner start since Aug. 15 in Miami.
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-7 3.46) will continue to make his bid as the team’s No.4 starter for the postseason. Ryu has been particularly strong at home of late, going 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA in his last 11 starts.
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