They didn’t invade the mound. They didn’t spray champagne.
If not for the newly issued hats with a specialized playoff crest on the side and a scattering of half-empty glasses left over from a brief post-game toast in the clubhouse, it would have been hard to tell the Dodgers had just finished. land a post-season berth at all.
Instead, after an 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres on Sunday that made them the first majors team to earn a ticket to October, the Dodgers quietly left Petco Park with bigger goals in mind.
“It’s an accomplishment,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But we have a lot of work to do.”
Like most of the previous nine years, a Dodgers playoff berth this season seemed almost inevitable from the start.
They were coming off a 106-win season and had the highest payroll of the majors. They were World Series favorites in Las Vegas and had a 97.7% chance of making the playoffs in Fangraphs’ projection model.
Roberts went so far as to guarantee not just another October race, but also a World Series championship.
And all they’ve done since then is rack up the most majors wins (they’re 96-43) while building a massive lead in National League West and an even bigger cushion down the line. playoff cup.
“To do it that fast is pretty amazing,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said.
Added third baseman Justin Turner, who hit two home runs in the win, including a grand slam: “We got everyone together and Dave gave a little toast, to enjoy this one a bit and know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
Indeed, the most encouraging developments for the Dodgers on Sunday occurred on the field, not in the standings.
Before the game, Blake Treinen felt fine during the catch play, a positive sign for the reliever after being placed on the disabled list on Saturday with a right shoulder tightness.
“I just have pain in the muscle,” Treinen said, explaining the issue was separate from the torn shoulder capsule that cost him four months this season and something he’s dealt with at times over the course of his career. reconstruction process on the mound.
“They choose to be cautious and I appreciate that,” he added. “Just take a break, do it right and then have a chance to be ready to go in a week or when everything is back to normal.”
The Padres’ outburst that followed — which completed the Dodgers’ eighth straight win over their division rivals — was also full of promising signs from the roster.
Turner continued to swing a sizzling bat, putting the Dodgers on the board with a solo home run in the fifth before putting the game aside with his second career grand slam in the seventh.
“It’s been the best run he’s had since I saw him,” Roberts said of Turner, who raised his slugging on-base percentage to a season-high .798. “It’s quite special.”
Chris Taylor continued to show signs of life at home plate, notching his fourth hit of the series with a fifth-inning solo home run to erase the Padres’ 2-0 lead.
Max Muncy returned to the lineup after recent knee irritation and ripped a two-run single in the sixth.
Andrew Heaney bounced back from a few tough outings, allowing just two runs (one won) in five innings while displaying much better fastball control and slider dominance.
“It’s the first time I’ve been on a playoff team,” said Heaney, an offseason signing who was slated for assignment by the New York Yankees last year days before they didn’t clinch a playoff berth. “I was joking with guys, it’s shit for them. But I was like, this is a big deal for me.
Landing the split will likely be a bigger problem for the team, something they failed to do last season and could clinch as early as Tuesday with their magic number reduced to two.
“I don’t think it’s going to be ho-hum when we win the division,” Freeman said. “Every time you win a division, it’s special and you celebrate it.”
Yet even this inevitable step may seem somewhat subdued. The Dodgers’ place in the standings and plans for October had been all but assured for a long time. They march towards what they hope will be a much grander destination.
“It’s not a rite of passage to make the playoffs every year,” Roberts said.
But, he quickly added, “I think our best baseball has yet to be played.”