LOS ANGELES ― The Dodgers’ franchise-record 109th win of the 2022 season ended as many have before: a lopsided score and a pitching appearance by utility player Hanser Alberto.
Their 10-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night came with an added bonus: home-field advantage through the end of the World Series.
An eight-run outburst in the fourth inning gave starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (11-3) ample room to win his penultimate start of the regular season. Kershaw tossed six shutout innings and the Dodgers didn’t allow a run until Alberto took the mound in the ninth inning.
“Tonight was just an all-around great ballgame,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “Clayton set the tone throwing up zeroes and managed a little traffic early. Mookie (Betts) made a great play out there to keep an inning at bay in right field. Offensively, we just came alive.”
Cody Bellinger hit his first home run in more than a month during the fourth-inning rally, the Dodgers’ only home run before an announced crowd of 52,025 at Dodger Stadium.
Betts went 3 for 5, Chris Taylor went 3 for 4, and Bellinger and Will Smith had two hits apiece.
The Dodgers had already locked up home-field advantage through the end of the National League Championship Series. Now, if they win that series, they would host Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 28.
“I think travel-wise, the playoffs this season are different. They don’t have that extra off-day in between (Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS). If you can be home as much as possible, that’s huge. We love playing here. We’ll take that for sure.”
The Dodgers (109-48) are 55-21 at Dodger Stadium this season, the best home record in MLB.
Kershaw has not been on the losing end of a decision since July 30 in Colorado. He missed nearly a month with a lower-back injury shortly thereafter. In six starts since returning from the injured list, the left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA.
This one, he said, required extra effort.
“This was a tough one stuff-wise so I had to grind through a lot of guys on base,” Kershaw said. “Overall I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. Every once in a while it happens that you have to grind. Fortunately, our guys put up a bunch of runs tonight.”
For a pitcher whose durability has been more of a concern than his effectiveness, the recent stretch has been particularly encouraging for Kershaw. The three-time Cy Young Award winner’s last five starts have all lasted six innings or longer. His 2.30 ERA for the season would be the sixth-lowest in MLB if he had enough innings to qualify.
Kershaw threw 88 pitches and induced fewer swings and misses (12) than balls in play (18). But Colorado’s five hits averaged less than 78 mph, and Kershaw stepped up in the game’s clutch moments.
With runners on second and third base and one out, Kershaw struck out Elias Diaz and got Ezequiel Tovar to fly out to end the second inning. In the third inning, he got out of another two-on, one-out jam by inducing a flyout and an infield pop-up. The left-hander did not allow another runner past first base.
Bellinger had not hit a home run since Aug. 21 before he took Chad Kuhl (6-11) deep with two runners on base in the third inning. He was hitless in his previous 11 at-bats when the day began.
“It was good to see Cody get rewarded,” Roberts said.
Now that the Dodgers have secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the stakes for their season-ending, six-game series against the Rockies (65-92) seem relatively minor.
Kershaw is expected to make an abbreviated start next Wednesday in the Dodgers’ final regular-season game. By then, they will have a better sense of who among their rehabbing players are healthy enough to participate in a best-of-five NL Division Series that would begin Oct. 11 – their last significant plot point other than watching a cornucopia of team and individual records fall.
“When you have a huge lead, when you’ve secured home field, all that stuff, you have a tendency to tinker, you have a tendency to get everybody perfect,” Kershaw said. “That’s just not the way baseball works. Nobody’s perfect. We’ve been playing for seven, eight months. It doesn’t matter how much time off, how much rest, how many games you’re up. You are what you are at this point.”
The Dodgers aren’t perfect, but they are closer on paper than any team in franchise history.