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Dodgers clinch playoff spot while cementing status atop the NL West

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LA’s magic number to clinch the division is 6

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers dined on a buffet of Padres pitchers on Wednesday afternoon, their 7-5 victory capturing the showdown series at Petco Park while reinforcing the Dodgers’ inside track toward an eighth straight division title.

They also clinched a playoff berth thanks to losses by the Brewers and Rockies earlier in the day. Though winning the division is still their ultimate regular season goal, the Dodgers plan to celebrate each clinching along the way.

Though to show how far down the totem pole of importance this was, manager Dave Roberts said he didn’t realize the team clinched a playoff berth until a few minutes after the game.

“I think it caught us all by surprise,” Roberts said on a conference call.

While this series, a battle of the two best teams in the National League, was exciting, and a fun preview of a potential October matchup, but it also had the feel of teams knowing their playoff seeding is essentially set. One of these teams is going to be the No. 1 seed and the other will be the No. 4. Both will play at home in the wild card round against teams that are all plucked from the same dollar bin at the local grocery mart.

Should they win that round, they advance to Texas, where home field advantage won’t exist anymore. With similar paths almost no matter what happens over the season’s final 11 days, it’s clear there isn’t much advantage to winning the National League West.

“As far as the benefit, it’s nonexistent,” Roberts said on Tuesday. “There’s not really a whole lot of incentive, which is unfortunate.”

Without that incentive, Wednesday’s series finale became a day to experiment a bit. The Dodgers decided on the opener route with reliever Brusdar Graterol in the first inning. Dustin May, originally slated to start, instead entered in the third inning and delivered 5⅓ innings in relief, as a potential preview of what might come in October.

The Padres used Wednesday as a more traditional bullpen day, with nine pitchers, and the Dodgers scored off five of the first six to take control.

Every Dodgers starter reached base. A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor homered, the latter the third home run in five games for Taylor, at three different positions (center field, second base, and left field). Will Smith drove in three, including a two-run double in the fifth inning that broke the game open.

Mookie Betts singled twice and stole bases in the first, third, and fourth innings, the first Dodger to steal three bases since Trayce Thompson on June 4, 2016.

Zach McKinstry made his major league debut in the ninth inning, striking out as a pinch hitter. He’s the ninth player drafted by the Dodgers in 2016 to play in the majors.

Pollock exited the game on defense in the sixth, feeling tightness in his hamstring. He’s day to day, Roberts said.

The Dodgers now lead the National League West by 3 games with 10 to play, and, thanks to owning the tiebreaker by winning six of 10 games against San Diego, a magic number of six to clinch the division, again.

Wednesday particulars

Home runs: A.J. Pollock (11), Chris Taylor (6); Jurickson Profar (7), Manny Machado (14)

WP — Adam Kolarek (2-0): ⅔ IP, 1 hit, 2 walks

LP — Adrian Morejón (2-1): 2+ IP, 2 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 3 strikeouts

Sv — Pedro Báez (2): ⅔ IP, 1 hit

Up next

The Dodgers play their final road series of 2020, with four games in Colorado starting Thursday. Julio Urías starts the opener (5:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), facing left-hander Kyle Freeland for the Rockies.