Dodgers win NL West title, become first to clinch playoff berth
The first official playoff team is one that was in last place throughout the entire month of June: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
A team that was 12 games under .500 through 72 games is now the first team to clinch a playoff berth in 2013.
They were in last place in the West through most of May and all of June, trailing by as many as 9.5 games. With the win Thursday, the Dodgers have a 10.5 game lead over the D-Backs, so the turnaround through Thursday has been a whopping 20 games in just 81 games.
Since that 30-42 start -- which had manager Don Mattingly squarely on the hot seat -- the Dodgers have gone an MLB best 58-23. The stretch included separate winning streaks of six, four, five, six, four, five, 10, four and six games, chronologically.
The Dodgers have managed to survive injuries to Hanley Ramirez (multiple times), Matt Kemp (multiple times), Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Zack Greinke, among others. Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley were lost for the season after only 10 combined starts. They also weathered Brandon League's awful stint as closer and didn't call up Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig until the first week of June.
All that, and the Dodgers are still the first team officially in the playoffs. That's remarkable.
This will be the Dodgers' first appearance in the postseason since 2009, when they lost the NLCS, four games to one, to the Phillies. They haven't been to the World Series since winning it all in 1988.
With such a huge lead for several weeks, the clinching was basically a formality, but now that it's done, full attention can shift to an attempt to garner some home field advantage in the playoffs. Entering Thursday, the Dodgers were tied with the Pirates for the fourth-best record in the NL, meaning they'd be a road team in the NLDS round. With all the playoff-caliber teams bunched together, though, the Dodgers are only 2.5 games away from the Braves for the top record in the NL.
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