Despite recent slump, Dodgers clinch postseason berth for fifth straight season

Although they've struggled mightily the last few weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers will officially return to the postseason this year. Wednesday night's win over the Giants (LAD 4, SF 1) clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Dodgers will be, at the absolute worst, the second wild card team. They still have a comfortable 10-game lead in the NL West with 16 games to play, so they'll lock up the division title fairly soon.

Of course, the biggest story in baseball recently -- aside from the Indians' ongoing 21-game winning streak -- has been the recent ugly slide by the Dodgers. Prior to their wins Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dodgers lost 11 straight games and 16 of their last 17 games. That's unfathomable. Keep in mind this team was 91-36 -- 91-36! -- before the 1-16 slide. Teams that good aren't supposed to completely collapse like that.

The win Wednesday officially clinched a postseason spot for Los Angeles, though, thanks to some fancy math, they actually clinched Tuesday night. MLB's officials confirmed it. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times explains:

In the afternoon, the league office said that the scenarios spit out by its computer meant the Dodgers could clinch Tuesday only if they won and the Milwaukee Brewers or Chicago Cubs lost. 

...

The Brewers won. The Cubs won. Then, during the evening, the league office said the computer had considered even more permutations and the Dodgers would clinch if they won. 

The Dodgers won. There was no acknowledgment, because Roberts did not know the Dodgers had clinched until a reporter told him.

"We're in the postseason? Really?" Roberts said. "That's great."

Originally it was determined the Dodgers needed a win and either a Cubs or Brewers loss to clinch. They clinched even though both the Cubs and Brewers won because the Cubs and Brewers have a series remaining against either other, from September 21-24 at Miller Park. One of those two teams is guaranteed to lose at some point thanks to their head-to-head series, which is why the Dodgers clinched. Got it? Good.

A postseason spot was, of course, a mere formality for these Dodgers. That 11-game losing streak and 1-16 stretch was never going to continue. They're way too talented. Are there more weaknesses than it appeared a few weeks ago? The answer is a resounding yes. That 1-16 stretch proved it. But Los Angeles built up such a huge lead earlier in the season that they had a ton of breathing room in the postseason races.

The Dodgers aren't focused on a postseason berth or a division title this year. They want to win the World Series. A playoff spot and the NL West championship are merely steps toward that goal. The Dodgers have been baseball's best team all season by a considerable margin, yet they've suffered some heartbreaking postseason losses the last few years. It's time to get over the hump. That's why they went out to get Yu Darvish, who was magnificent Wednesday.

Already this season the Dodgers are the second team to clinch a postseason berth. The Nationals clinched the NL East title a few days ago. The Indians and Astros should clinch the AL Central and AL West, respectively, fairly soon given their big leads. The other races figure to be decided closer to the end of the regular season.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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