Walker Buehler was every bit the ace the Dodgers believe he is on Monday afternoon. The 24-year-old held the Rockies off the scoreboard for nearly seven innings and had as many hits at the plate as he allowed on the mound.
Scoreless until the fourth inning, the Dodger offense got going with a pair of key home runs that would put Los Angeles on top for good, sealing their sixth consecutive National League West title with a 5-2 win.
The Dodgers will now host the Braves for the first two games of the National League Division Series, starting Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
On the season the Dodgers end with a 50-0 record when they have a lead of four or more runs at any point. No other team in baseball went undefeated under the same circumstances.
The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Colorado starter German Marquez needed four strikeouts to get out of the frame. A passed ball allowed Max Muncy to reach first safely and it came back to bite the Rockies in a big way.
Cody Bellinger took advantage of the mistake by punishing a ball into the right field stands for a two-run homer. The Dodger center fielder ends his season with 25 home runs.
That sweet @Cody_Bellinger swing for the lead. #Game163 pic.twitter.com/aPDUqnaweg— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2018
Doing what they do best, the Dodgers continued with the long ball in the very next inning. One of the biggest surprises of the season continued when Max Muncy launched his 35th homer of the year, an opposite field two-run shot that put the Dodgers on top 4-0.
.@maxmuncy9 isn’t feeling a trip to Chicago. #Game163 pic.twitter.com/91rvC8Kd5M— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2018
It wasn’t enough that Buehler was shutting the Rockies down from the mound. The right-hander stepped in the box in the sixth inning and smacked a run-scoring single to right field to extend the lead.
Buehler proved to everyone that the Dodgers made the right choice to push him back a day to make the start in the tiebreaker. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit until a sixth inning single off the bat of Charlie Blackmon.
The Rockies managed only two hits off Buehler and struggled to make solid contact all day. When manager Dave Roberts came to get his young starter after walking Carlos Gonzalez in the seventh, Buehler finished his day with one hit, a hit batter and three walks in 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings.
The bullpen picked up right where it started, getting the next four outs with no problem. That would change in the ninth when the Rockies scored their lone runs on solo homers from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the ninth off Kenley Jansen.
The Dodgers were 6-1 against the Rockies in the final month of the season to come back and take the division, with an assist from the Nationals Saturday.
It was a long road to get to the top, but the Dodgers accomplished their first goal of winning the division yet again. They now have another tough road ahead that starts Thursday as they move into the postseason.
“I think we’re the best team out there,” Roberts said as his team celebrated the accomplishment. “We have so much depth. Now it’s up to us to go out there and play like it.”
Home Runs: Bellinger (25), Muncy (35)
WP: Walker Buehler (8-5): 6 2⁄3 IP, 1 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
LP: German Marquez (14-11): 4 2⁄3 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, 9 strikeouts