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Dodgers wrap up another division title while keeping eyes on the ultimate prize

Jorge Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

BALTIMORE -- Before the Los Angeles Dodgers popped another round of champagne bottles to celebrate another division title Tuesday night, manager Dave Roberts stopped the festivities and made a request. He insisted that they FaceTime Alex Verdugo and Max Muncy.

Verdugo and Muncy, two pillars in the Dodgers' expeditious cruise to a seventh straight National League West crown, were not with the team for its division-clinching 7-3 win over the bumbling Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. They watched on television from afar, injuries keeping them from the alcohol-soaked ritual seven months in the making.

"No man left behind," Roberts shouted as they rushed to get the players' faces on the line in the visitors' clubhouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards..

Verdugo appeared on one screen and Muncy on another, giving clearance for the revelry.

"We won the first season," Roberts screamed as he shook his bottle before getting lost in a champagne shower.

A year after needing to sweat out a 163rd game to clinch the NL West title, the Dodgers, featuring a seemingly endless stream of contributors, became the fastest team in franchise history to clinch a division, by games played and date. The 1977 Dodgers had previously needed the fewest games (151) and the 2017 club accomplished the feat earliest (Sept. 19). This season's iteration, still with an outside shot to compile the most wins in franchise history, needed 146 games and nine fewer days to accomplish the feat after losing the last two World Series.

 

"I just think after losing your first World Series, you probably got a little bit of a hangover coming into it," pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. "After '18, I think we came in a little bit more determined, maybe a little more focused."

Like last year, when the Dodgers needed an extra day to break a tie with the Colorado Rockies for the NL West, Walker Buehler took the mound for the clinching game Tuesday.

The stakes were rather different. A loss Tuesday would not have forced the Dodgers to play in the wild-card game to stay alive. The intensity did not come close to matching the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium for Game 163 when Buehler tossed6 2/3 scoreless innings. On Tuesday, Dodgers fans made up about half of a light crowd. The announced attendance included 233 dogs. The bleachers were nearly empty.

Buehler, nonetheless, delivered another dominant performance on seven days' rest. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits while striking out 11 and walking none.

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