(Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
The Los Angeles Dodgers began to celebrate Saturday night's extra-inning victory against the Seattle Mariners just like any other.
But after their congratulatory handshakes and high-fives near the mound, they turned toward the dugout to find caps and T-shirts commemorating their 10th National League West title in the past 11 years.
That's when they started to let loose.
With 15 games remaining in the regular season, including Sunday afternoon's finale of a three-game interleague series in Seattle, the Dodgers (90-57) can start preparing for the postseason.
"Winning the division is something always special, but doing it by winning a baseball game and not by default makes it more special," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Tonight we get a chance to celebrate with one another, celebrate with our fans."
"Every year is different, but for me this is the most fun I've had managing," Roberts added. "Certainly the players are a big part of it, and to watch those guys celebrate one another, pull for one another, sacrifice for each other makes my job that much more enjoyable."
Dodgers veteran Clayton Kershaw, making his first start since Sept. 5 because of an ailing left shoulder, pitched four scoreless innings.
"You have to embrace it. You have to enjoy it. Like I've been saying, this could be the last one for a long time. Every year I say that, but you just can't take it for granted," Kershaw said.
After nine scoreless innings Saturday, both teams scored in the 10th. Max Muncy's RBI single sparked a five-run rally in the top of the 11th to send Los Angeles to a 6-2 victory that started the celebration.
The Mariners (81-67) failed to make up ground on Houston and Texas in the American League West and dropped a half-game behind Toronto for the AL's third and final wild-card berth.
"All of these games matter," Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford said. "We're in a race and stuff is spicy. We have an opportunity to win these games and make it happen."
Mariners manager Scott Servais praised his players despite the defeat.
"With where we're at in our season ... I couldn't be any prouder of our group," Servais said. "We battle every night, no matter what the situation is or what's out ahead of us. Yeah, you're disappointed. The last couple nights I thought we're right there in the game and you don't get a couple of hits. You have to let it go and wash it clean. We're in a good spot to get into October baseball."
Right-hander Logan Gilbert (13-5, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to start Sunday for the Mariners as they attempt to avoid a sweep.
Gilbert, who will be facing the Dodgers for the first time in his career, has won eight straight decisions since June 28. He didn't get a decision despite allowing just three runs over seven innings of his start Monday against the Los Angeles Angels as the Mariners lost 8-5 in 11 innings.
Not surprisingly given the slate of injuries to their pitching staff, the Dodgers haven't finalized their pitching plans for the series finale.
Rookie right-hander Gavin Stone (1-0, 10.80 ERA) is expected to get the bulk of the work, either as the starter or following an opener. Stone has not previously pitched against the Mariners.
--Field Level Media