LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hyun-Jin Ryu unleashed a full bottle of bubbly over the head of A.J. Ellis.
“It never gets old,” the catcher said. “I love how cold it is.”
The post-game party was in full swing shortly after the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West title with a 9-1 victory over the second-place San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.
Clayton Kershaw wore a huge grin and a soaked championship T-shirt as he made his way around the saturated clubhouse, singled out for repeated soakings by his jubilant teammates.
The probable NL Cy Young Award winner and MVP candidate tied a career high with his 21st victory and lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.77 in his last start of the regular season.
“You can’t take lightly what we did,” Kershaw said. “You got to celebrate accomplishments and that’s what we did. It’s really fun to celebrate with these guys.”
The left-hander allowed one run and eight hits in eight innings, struck out 11 and walked none, having won his final seven starts. He is trying to become the first player to lead the major leagues in ERA in four consecutive seasons.
“It’s been a magical year for Kershaw,” said teammate Carl Crawford, who was 2 for 2 with three runs scored and two RBIs.
Kershaw (21-3) didn’t pitch lights out — getting called for a balk and wild pitch — and he committed a throwing error in the seventh but he did a little bit of everything, including hitting and fielding to ensure the Dodgers celebrated in front of their longtime rivals.
“He probably wasn’t at his best, but him at 80 percent is pretty good,” Giants starter Tim Hudson said. “It’s better than most people.”
“MVP” chants directed at Kershaw from the sellout crowd of 53,387 broke out throughout the game, but grew loudest after he retired the side in the eighth, striking out two.
“It’s cool,” Kershaw said of the chants. “These fans obviously want a World Series.”
Yasiel Puig, who homered to highlight a four-run sixth inning, hopped on a bicycle for a ride in the clubhouse after aggressively soaking everyone in sight. Tubs full of melting ice got knocked over, soaking the blue carpet as the stench of champagne hung in the misty air.
“We want to win a world championship but the first step in that is winning your division,” said manager Don Mattingly, his brown hair matted.
Kershaw tied his career high in wins from 2011. The Dodgers are 23-4 in his 27 starts this season. He notched the franchise’s second-best single-season winning percentage (.875) behind Preacher Roe’s .880 mark in 1951, when he was 22-3.
“He’s so tough, what a year he’s had,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’ve got to play perfect ball to beat him and hope you get a timely hit and we didn’t do it.”
Juan Uribe went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs, continuing his hot hitting since coming off the disabled list last month.
The Dodgers snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth, with Puig hitting a leadoff homer off Hudson (9-13) to get things started. Crawford’s two-run double off Javier Lopez made it 4-1 and Uribe followed with a RBI single off Jean Machi for a 5-1 lead.
The Dodgers tacked on four more runs in the eighth, when Giants pitchers walked four batters and hit another.
The loss again kept the Giants from clinching a playoff berth.
Hudson gave up three runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings, struck out four and walked one.
Kershaw tied the game 1-1 with his first career triple in the fifth, scoring Crawford, who got hit in the left foot by a pitch and then stole second. Kershaw chugged into third base standing up.
“It was tiring,” Kershaw said of his triple. “I don’t want to do that again. It’ll take a double.”
Kershaw had a bit of a messy third, when he allowed four baserunners, his most of any inning. With runners on first and second he was called for a balk, allowing the runners to move up. Kershaw showed quick reflexes facing his next batter. Hudson hit a comebacker and Kershaw, down on his right knee with his back toward the plate, reached around, backhanded the ball and threw to first for the out.
Kershaw gave up a pair of two-out singles in the sixth and the runners moved up on his wild pitch. He induced a groundout to the mound from Chris Dominguez to end the inning.