The Los Angeles Dodgers showed baseball pundits it remains the top dog in the west on Saturday by beating the Seattle Marines in extra innings 6-1 and clinching its 10th divisional title in 11 years.
Many writers, including myself, pinned the Dodgers season as a transitional year and had the Padres pouncing on the opportunity to win the division after stacking up the team with players like Manny Machado, Xander Bogarts and Juan Soto.
At the start of the season, I predicted the Dodgers to be a wild card team in the playoffs.
Instead, the Padres are in fourth place and find themselves three games under .500 baseball while Dave Roberts has managed his best season since joining the Dodgers in 2015. The Dodgers are three games away from claiming a trip to the National League Divisional Series and earning a bye-week.
The West Was Won
The Dodgers will finish with the second best record in the National League, behind the Atlanta Braves.
In a season where the biggest free agent addition to the Dodgers was a one-year deal to JD Martinez and lost its starting shortstop to a season ending spring training accident, the franchise is demonstrating how it remains to be the juggernaut dynasty that controls the west.
At the beginning of the season, the pitching staff looked decimated. Clayton Kershaw was going to captain and steer a rotation with names like Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Ryan Pepiot.
Instead, the LAPD arrested Urias for domestic violence and erased his image from the stadium murals. Gonsolin and May had season ending surgeries and Pepiot started pitching for the minor league affiliates early August. The Dodgers initial pitching plans crashed and burned.
The Rookie Platoon
The Dodgers relied on its farm system to win the west. Kershaw is cruising into the playoffs with a pitching staff that includes Lance Lynn, Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Emmett Sheehan.
Roberts unleashed a platoon of rookies that were initially listed to make it to the majors next year onto the league. Miller has pitched himself into the conversation of being a started of either game one or two in the divisional series, according to Roberts.
The rookie wave made its way into the starting lineup as well. James Outman is putting together a standout performance.
Since taking over center field, Outman has hit 21 home runs, has earned two Rookie of the Month awards and is batting .245. He has become a Rookie of the Year candidate and is sure to make it into the top three list.
With the influx of rookies and the balanced-out lineup that includes playoff-experienced veterans like Martinez and Heyward, the Dodgers are on their way to face the Braves in the National League Championship Series.
Regardless of the team that makes it out of the wild card series, the Dodgers have played well enough to confidently say its biggest obstacle in October will be the Braves. The opponent won’t matter. After the Braves, as the season has demonstrated, anything is possible.