If the Dodgers traversed a rather miraculous climb from worst to first in the National League West Division during a matter of weeks, they showed that power within one game on Thursday.
Down 6-3 early to the Arizona Diamondbacks, L. A. clawed back to create a tie in the seventh and then rode the coattails of catcher A. J. Ellis to victory.
Ellis’ lead-off home run against reliever Josh Collmenter in the eighth snapped a 6-6 tie and provided the catalyst for the Dodgers’ 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks before 22,763 in Chase Field Thursday afternoon.
The win clinched the NL West Division title for the Dodgers and culminated in a title run not witnessed in recent times. At one point, the Dodgers put together a 42-8 string to create separation among other West division teams.
The Dodgers’ clinching victory on Sept. 19 was the earliest for the franchise since they moved from Brooklyn, and represented the fourth team in baseball history to be in last place on July 1 or later and finish in first place.
L. A. is the first team to clinch a position in post-season play this season, and the NL West title is the first by a Dodgers' team since 2009.
Only the Diamondbacks managed to stay with the Dodgers, and that was after the Giants, Padres and Rockies became a distant memory.
After the obligatory on-field hugging, the Dodgers repaired to their clubhouse for the usual champagne and beer bath. Yet, several carried the celebration to the the pool in right field.
While the pool may not be as iconic as the ivy in Wrigley Field, the Green Monster of Fenway Park or the warehouse over the right field fence in Baltimore's Camden Yards, the pool is a symbol of the Diamondbacks franchise. To players and management, it's regarded as our property and no trespassing allowed.
"The won the division and congratulations to them," said D-backs infielder Willie Bloomquist. "I would expect them to act this with a little more class than they did. I doubt the New York Yankees would do something like this."
Still, the Diamondbacks could do little more than watch and wait until next season.
As sands shifted through their hour glass Thursday in the desert, the Diamondbacks could only watch. Manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell stayed to watch the Dodgers’ on-field celebration. They were the last in Sedona Red to leave the Arizona dugout and most of the players scattered right after the final pitch.
“Well, you look at the team which won and say, that’s where we want to be,” Gibson said. “Yeah, I stood and took it all in. The Dodgers had a great second half and have to tip your cap to them. This is not the way we drew it up. We tried to make them earn this, but it didn’t work out they we hoped.”
Home runs were the key to the Dodgers win Thursday.
To pace the attack, shortstop Hanley Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two homers. He opened the scoring with a three-run bomb off of starter Wade Miley in the third and eventually tied the game with his second of the contest off reliever Chaz Roe in the seventh.
That set the stage for Ellis’ game-winner.
“I know Collmenter likes to pound the strike zone and get a first pitch strike,” Ellis said amid the craziness of the Dodgers clubhouse celebration. “It was a cutter that he left over the plate. I put a pretty swing on it but didn’t think it was out. Approaching first base, (first base coach Davey Lopes) said it was out.”
After knocking the Diamondbacks out of the race, Ellis was complementary.
“(Arizona) did a great job of protecting their turf,” he said. “They battled through injuries and I thought they had a great season. We’re proud to represent the Diamondbacks and the National League West in the post-season.”
Thought missing most of the season with injuries, outfielder Matt Kemp managed to put an exclamation mark on the season.
“Though I was out for most of the year, it was fun to see guys like Hanley and Yasil Puig do their thing,” he said. “I know we had a tough start. Look, it’s not how you start but where you finish. It’s time for us to enjoy this, but the next week will be important. I‘m sure (Dodgers manager Don) Mattingly wants to rest some guys but, at the same time, guys have to remain sharp.”
If Ramirez helped the Dodgers jump out to an early lead, the Diamondbacks roared back for a six spot in the third.
Four extra base hits powered the inning and a two-run triple from Martin Prado highlighted the frame. However, the power source quickly dried.
From Miley’s two-run double in the third until the final out, the D-backs managed only four base runners. That was Prado, who was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fourth, a two out single from Gerardo Parra in the fifth, a one-out single by A. J. Pollock in the sixth and a two-out walk to Didi Gregorius in the seventh.
In the end, the day, and the season, belong to the Dodgers.
“We knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mattingly, who was constantly sprayed with champagne while talking with reporters in the clubhouse. “I knew how good my team was, and we wanted to finish it (in Chase Field). We didn’t want to carry this any further and certainly did not want to watch the scoreboard.”
AN ARM FOR THE FUTURE
If the Diamondbacks rotation was in flux this season, Randall Delgado emerged as a constant.
Benefiting from a marginal spring training and taking education and advice to heart. Delgado came back from his venture at Triple A Reno a more refined pitcher.
Over the season half, he emerged as a steady and dependable arm and second to Patrick Corbin in reliability.
“(Delgado) has shown better location and his change has been good,” manager Kirk Gibson said before Thursday’s afternoon game with the Dodgers in Chase Field. “He’s just learning how to pitch, he’s dedicated and has a good future.”
To survive at the major league level, change is mandatory.
“(Delgado) has made adjustments and as a player, you need to do this,” Gibson added. “He has greater command and we like what we see.”
THE FINAL ROAD TRIP
The Diamondbacks now embark on their final trip of the season.
They open up in Denver Friday night against the Rockies. Right-hander Randall Delgado (5-6, 3.98 ERA) gets the start against righty Jhoulys Chacin (13-9, 3.22). On Saturday, it’s Trevor Cahill (7-10, 4.12) facing lefty Jorge De La Rosa (16-6, 3.49), and on Sunday afternoon, Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.17) takes on righty Juan Nicasio (8-8, 4.98).
Then, it’s over to San Diego for four before returning to Chase Field to face the Washington Nationals and close the season Sept. 27-29.