With the season resting on his shoulders, Walker Buehler took the mound and fired 6.2 innings of shutout ball against the Rockies, leading the Dodgers’ charge for their sixth straight NL West title. The win capped the Dodgers’ comeback, going from 10 games below .500 on May 1, to winning the West in game 163.
Although the game counts as a regular season game and all stats go toward a player’s regular season stats, there was a playoff atmosphere in Dodger Stadium. Because of this, Buehler, who had never pitched in a postseason game at the Major League level, was nervous as can be. “I was shaking all first inning,” said Buehler. “I got lucky. They hit it where our guys were.”
In the final game of the regular season, the Dodgers didn’t have to worry about run support. Cody Bellinger started things off for the Dodgers with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Max Muncy tacked on two more runs an inning later with a two-run bomb of his own. Then, one inning later, Buehler hit an RBI single.
In the fourth inning, the Dodgers took advantage of a pair of mistakes to take the lead. Muncy struck out to lead off the inning, but Tony Wolters let the ball get past him. Muncy alertly ran to first base. After the next two batters struck out, Bellinger came to the plate. Here’s what happened:
After that, Muncy took matters into his own hands in the fifth inning. After striking out in the fourth, Muncy made a fifth-inning adjustment. With a full count, he got a pitch on the outer edge of the plate. Muncy hit it to the left field seats for a two-run homer.
“A lot of hitters were late on it, including me,” said Muncy. “I felt like maybe I was taking too big of a swing, I got three strikes in my last at-bat, so I shortened up and you know, he supplied the power with it and I was able to just get the bat there.”
With the Dodgers leading 5-0 heading into the ninth inning, it seemed like the drama was over. The Dodgers brought Kenley Jansen into the game to avoid any trouble. Instead, he gave up back-to-back home runs. This had everyone nervous. In the end, he managed to record three outs and the Dodgers won the division for the sixth straight year.
The Dodgers are off until Thursday. Between now and then, the Rockies and Cubs will face off in the NL Wild Card game today and the Yankees and A’s will play the AL Wild Card game tomorrow. The winner of the Wild Card games will advance to play the top seed in their respective league.
The Dodgers will host the Braves on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. Game times have not yet been set and starting pitchers haven’t been announced. The Braves are a young team that exceeded expectations this year. They’re led by potential Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr. and 21-year-old Ozzie Albies. This young leadership along with veterans like Freddie Freeman make the Braves a formidable team.
At the same time, most of the Braves have never played in the post-season. This could give the Dodgers an advantage. After all, they’ve got a great pitching staff, great leadership, and some amazing power in their bats. October here we come!