Dodgers come alive in seventh, clinch division


On Saturday night, it took three things for the Dodgers to beat the Rockies and finally clinch the NL West. 1) A spectacular pitching performance from the 21 year-old Clayton Kershaw, who threw six scoreless innings on 10 strikeouts and three hits. 2) Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa’s groin injury in the fourth. De La Rosa pitched three hitless innings before the Rockies middle relief came in and struggled. 3) The seventh-inning rally from the Dodgers. After hits from Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, Mark Loretta, Juan Pierre, and Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers had scored five, breaking the game wide open.

The Dodgers unleashed their pent-up frustration in a five-run seventh inning that matched their entire offensive output from the previous five days, the five-hit, two-walk outburst lifting them to a 5-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night that secured their second title in a row.

For the last six days, the magic number for the Dodgers to win the division was at one.

The Dodgers lost five consecutive games over that span. The Rockies won six.

Ending the game was closer Jonathan Broxton, who had a chance to seal the division title in Pittsburgh six days ago, only to blow a three-run lead.

“In Pittsburgh, it didn’t go the way I wanted,” Broxton said. “It felt like a while to get here. The champagne traveled a lot. It probably has more miles on it than any other champagne.”

Obviously, the Dodgers hardly “clinched” anything. That word implies an interim of relaxation. The Yankees “clinched” their division and secured home field advantage some time ago. It took 161 games for the Dodgers to solidify their role in the playoffs. While they finish the season with the National League’s best record, the Dodgers are by no means its hottest team. Until last night, they had lost five straight. Fortunately for them, the Cardinals (their NLDS opponents) and the Phillies are both in similar skids. The Rockies, however, are tearing it up, winning six of their last seven.

Hats off to Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who took over midseason and completely turned this team around. The Rockies are thriving off the same type of momentum that took them from the wild card spot to the World Series in 2007.

Despite the Dodgers recent struggles, they did have to overcome a fair amount of obstacles, including Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin’s hitting woes, Hiroki Kuroda’s various injuries, and Chad Billingsley’s second-half meltdown. Really, it came down to Ned Colletti’s preseason and midseason acquisitions. Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard, Vicente Padilla, and Jon Garland turned it on when it mattered most. Notice how I didn’t mention the Twenty Million Dollar Man. Devotion transcends past drug use out here in L.A. and Manny Ramirez has received a season-long pass. Who knows if his bat will come alive in the playoffs. Nevertheless, it won’t matter. The best teams are going to advance, and that’s the end of it.

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