Dodgers clinch 10th NL West title in 11 years with win over Mariners

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Ryan Brasier reacts after striking out Seattle Mariners' Teoscar Hernandez to end the eight inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Maddy Grassy)

The Dodgers are NL West champions once again. (AP Photo/Maddy Grassy)

The NL West still goes through the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In a season where they faced more questions than ever about their status as MLB’s most steady team, the Dodgers put the finishing touches on their 10th division title in 11 years with a 6-2 win over the Seattle Mariners in extra innings.

The Dodgers and Mariners both went scoreless in the first nine innings, then scored the ghost runner and only the ghost runner in the 10th. The Dodgers retook the lead in the 11th with a Max Muncy single, then broke the game open with a two-run Chris Taylor single.

Kiké Hernández followed with another two-run single to put the game fully out of reach in Seattle.

The win improved the Dodgers’ record to 90-57, 13.5 games ahead of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks. The Atlanta Braves, who have already clinched the NL East, loom six games ahead for the top spot in the NL, and the wild-card bye that comes with it.

The only year the Dodgers didn’t win the division since 2013 was 2021, when their 106 wins weren’t enough to top the San Francisco Giants.

For as early as the Dodgers clinched the division, they spent much of the season in a dogfight with the D-backs. Arizona led the division at the All-Star break, but a 5-19 stretch afterward saw them slide down the standings. The Dodgers held serve, and were up double-digits in the standings by Aug. 16.

Obviously, the Dodgers have plenty more work to do. Winning 10 division titles in 11 years is impressive; winning one World Series in that span less so. Every player on the team is going to be aware of that. But given what the Dodgers have dealt with this season, coming out of it with a division title is still pretty impressive.

Dodgers weren’t the automatic NL West pick this season, but still finished like it

It hasn’t been an easy season for the Dodgers, though, especially when it comes to the rotation.

The team lost its starting shortstop Gavin Lux, their Trea Turner replacement, to a torn ACL in spring training. Neither Walker Buehler (Tommy John surgery) nor Blake Treinen (shoulder) pitched an inning this season. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May both went down with season-ending surgeries, while free agent signing Noah Syndergaard posted a 7.16 ERA in a Dodger uniform. And the less said about Julio Urías, the better at this point.

How did the Dodgers make up for all those losses and disappointments? Well, MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman were a good start, as were strong campaigns from Will Smith, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez at the plate. Only the Braves had a higher OPS (.844) in MLB than the Dodgers’ .800 this season entering Saturday.

On the mound, Clayton Kershaw has been his usual self at the ripe age of 35 with a 2.61 ERA in 117 1/3 innings, while the Dodgers turned to pitching prospects Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Emmett Sheehan and Gavin Stone to fill out their depleted rotation, with varying success.

An active trade deadline also helped things, despite the Dodgers acquiring seemingly nothing but players with negative wins above replacement at that point in the season. Hernández, Amed Rosario, Lance Lynn, Ryan Yarbrough and Joe Kelly all provided stabilizing reinforcements.

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