Vin Scully is one step closer to calling another World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday clinched the National League West with a 7-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona and became the first team to make the Major League Baseball playoffs. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis hit the game-winning home run in the top of the eighth inning and Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs, a three-run shot in the top of the first and a critical game-tying home run in the top of the seventh. J.P. Howell got the win in relief and closer Kenley Jansen got his 26th save.
Perhaps it was fitting Los Angeles clinched at Arizona. On June 12, the reeling Dodgers were in last place when they got into a vicious brawl for the ages against the Diamondbacks that involved players and coaches. Dodger starter Zack Greinke was defending Yasiel Puig, who was hit in the jaw earlier in that game, on that night and was in the middle of the brawl fresh off a rehab assignment in which he was recovering from a broken collarbone he had suffered in a brawl against San Diego Padres two months earlier. Greinke was defending the hot-shot prospect he barely knew, and the brawl ended up unifying the team. Puig, a player who would be the catalyst and resuscitated a team that had been on life support and in danger of going down as one of Los Angeles’s biggest flops at the box office, was hitless on Thursday.
But that was fitting as well, for Puig has already done his part in sparking the same cast of characters that carried Los Angeles on Thursday, as they had been doing during Los Angeles’s historic run the last two months–the Dodgers have gone an MLB-best 58-23 after a miserable 30-42 start.
Puig’s exuberance was contagious, and it seemed to have an immediate effect on players like Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, who started running the base paths as if he was trying to make the team in spring training. As Puig’s numbers faded a bit after the All-Star game, players like Ramirez and Gonzalez started to thrive.
It was also fitting that A.J. Ellis, who is reminiscent of Mike Scioscia during Los Angeles’s magical 1988 season (the last time the Dodgers made the World Series) and is blue collar on a team with plenty of flash and sizzle, hit the game-winning home run. Ellis has held the pitching staff together and has had a bevy of timely and clutch hits that kept furthering the Dodgers momentum as they head toward achieving one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history.
The last time the Dodgers made the playoffs was in 2009 when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games in the National League Championship Series.