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By Jon Weisman
The past two nights, I couldn’t pre-write.
Normally, if I’m writing about a game or even just some aspect of a game, I’ll get it going in the middle innings. But in these games against the Giants, I was so sure the angle would keep switching that I couldn’t do it. And with Monday’s life-on-the-edge game, that anxiety was validated.
Then came tonight:
- In the first inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.
- In the eighth inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.
The Dodgers took the lead early, extended it late, and lo and behold, they clinched a tie for the National League West title tonight with a 4-2 victory over San Francisco.
The victory and share of the division comes with Clayton Kershaw taking the mound in his final start of the regular season Wednesday. That’s how soon the Dodgers can claim the NL West outright.
Against all reality, Turner’s dream season continues to get dreamier. His two home runs tonight matched his season totals in 2012 and again in 2013 for the New York Mets, who made Turner a castoff left unsigned by every Major League team until a week before his reporting date to Camelback Ranch. He now has a .397 on-base percentage and .482 slugging percentage in 315 plate appearances.
“Going around those bases, I was floating,” Turner said of his second homer to SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo. “It was a good feeling, and the guys in here were beating the crap out of me and bubbles were flying everywhere. It was a good time.”
While Turner provided the bread, Matt Kemp supplied the meat. He came up to the plate in the first inning with Yasiel Puig on first base, after being hit by a Madison Bumgarner hit by pitch that led to angry words and briefly cleared the benches.
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On his 30th birthday, Kemp’s two-run homer – his 16th home run in 59 second-half starts – gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead in the first inning and put the wind at their backs after Monday’s deflating defeat.
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As it turned out, Bumgarner reversed the wind like a Greek god. After his 36-pitch first inning, not only did he shut down the Dodgers on one baserunner over the next six innings and 72 pitches, he blasted his fourth homer of the season, a two-run shot on an 0-2 pitch off Greinke.
But that was Greinke’s only mistake. With the bullpen as taxed as it has been all year, Greinke turned in eight innings, scattering five singles and walking none. He threw a season-high 118 pitches, but Don Mattingly let him do so with the knowledge that with a division title, Greinke could make a short tune-up start in Sunday’s season finale, then rest for five more days until Game 2 of the National League Division Series a week from Saturday.
By the same token, Kenley Jansen came on for the save despite throwing 44 pitches the past two nights. One inning of success, and Jansen could rest easy for as long as needed. And buoyed by Turner’s insurance homer, Jansen enjoyed a cushion.
A diving stop-and-throw by defensive replacement Darwin Barney on a Joe Panik grounder gave Jansen even more shelter. Buster Posey singled, but Pablo Sandoval tapped out, and Hunter Pence hit a harmless fly to Kemp.
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The Dodgers are likely to end up as the No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs and facing St. Louis for the third time in the past six postseasons. They trail Washington by three games (four in the loss column) but lead the Cardinals by two games. The Dodgers’ magic number for home-field advantage over St. Louis is two games.
Los Angeles has won at least 90 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-78.