A crowd of 37,514 rose to its feet to salute the Dodgers as they walked off the field at Chavez Ravine on Wednesday afternoon, a 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies putting the finishing touches on a historic regular season in which the Dodgers went 111-51, tied for the fourth-most wins in major league history.
What happens over the next few weeks will determine how this Dodger team is remembered, but what happened over the last six months should not be easily forgotten, whether the Dodgers bow out in the first round of the playoffs or win their second World Series title in three years.
“It’s mind-boggling, I think, when you really take a step back and realize how hard that is to accomplish,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who ended an 0-for-13 skid with a double, a homer and an RBI single in four at-bats. “To win 111 games and go 60 games over .500? You gotta be good from start to finish.
“It’s day games after night games, getting in at 4 a.m., long travel days … for us to keep getting up and grinding and winning that many games over a course of six months, it’s really hard to do. As a group, we can appreciate a lot of good things that happened this year.”
Some good things happened in the batter’s box for a club that looked as if it might be back-sliding into the playoffs by scoring a combined four runs in three consecutive losses to the Rockies before Wednesday.
Shortstop Trea Turner, who hadn’t hit a home run since Sept. 11 or driven in a run since Sept. 16, broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer to right-center field in the fifth inning and lined a single to left in the seventh.
Turner struck out in his first two at-bats but drove a 3-and-1 sinker on the outer half from right-hander Chad Smith 407 feet for a 4-1 lead and his 98th, 99th and 100th RBIs of the season.
“I’m just not driving the ball, especially to right field, so to get a pitch over the plate in a hitter’s count and to hit it where it’s supposed to go is nice,” Turner said. “It’s good to end on a high note and get ready for the for the postseason and try to keep it rolling.”
Freeman needed to go four for four to overtake New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (.326) for the National League batting title, but he fell a point short when he flied to the warning track in center in the fifth.
But with his first-inning double, third-inning solo homer and seventh-inning RBI single, Freeman finished with a .325 batting average and .918 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 21 homers, an NL-leading 47 doubles and 117 runs, 100 RBIs and an NL-leading 199 hits.
Freeman and Turner (194 hits) are the sixth teammates to finish first and second in the major leagues in hits in the same season and the first Dodgers teammates to drive in 100 runs in a season since Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in 2009.
“My goal every year is to hit .300 with 100 runs, 100 RBIs and a .900 OPS,” said Freeman, a former Atlanta Braves star who signed a six-year, $162-million deal in March. “To check that off in my first season with the Dodgers and to set a franchise record in wins? I don’t think you could ask for much more.”
Well, there is one more thing on Freeman’s wish list. A championship ring.
“First tournament’s over,” Freeman said. “Now the big tournament starts. No one cares what your numbers were or how many wins you have starting Tuesday.”
The Dodgers enter the postseason without injured ace Walker Buehler but with a rejuvenated Clayton Kershaw, who missed the 2021 playoffs because of an elbow injury but will play a prominent role this October.
Kershaw gave up one run and one hit — a homer by Ezequiel Tovar in the second — in five innings Wednesday, striking out nine and walking one to close with a 12-3 record and 2.28 ERA in 22 starts.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner retired 15 of 17 batters and pushed his career strikeout total to 2,807, passing none other than Cy Young for 24th place on baseball’s all-time list.
“It’s obviously incredible company,” Kershaw said. “I don’t even know the right word, but it’s cool.”
Kershaw missed four weeks after suffering another lower-back injury in early August but is 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA in seven starts since Sept. 1, giving up 27 hits, striking out 49 and walking eight in 41 innings.
“I didn’t quite make it through this year,” said Kershaw, who went to the injured list twice, “but I’m healthy at the right time, which is huge for me.”
Kershaw’s next start will be in the NL Division Series, but the Dodgers haven’t decided how to align Julio Urías and Kershaw for the first two games against the New York Mets or San Diego Padres.
Urías has been one of the best starters in baseball this year, going 17-7 with an NL-best 2.16 ERA, striking out 166 and walking 41 in 175 innings, a performance manager Dave Roberts said would gain his vote for the NL Cy Young Award.
“Just to give you a peek behind the curtain, it’s more of who we feel is best to potentially come back on regular rest in Game 5,” Roberts said. “It’s not opponent-driven. It’s certainly not talent-driven. It’s kind of where we feel: Who is in the best spot to do that?”