Back-to-back division champs, the Dodgers will look to improve on their 2013 postseason campaign where they lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS. After a lackluster start to the season, Don Mattingly's club flipped the script in mid-June. On June 8, the Dodgers were 10 games back from the division lead. On June 30, they caught the Giants for the lead. And July 27, they grabbed hold of the lead and never let go, clinching the division crown with Wednesday night's win over the Giants. Here are the biggest reasons the Dodgers repeated.
APMark J. Terrill
The indomitable Clayton Kershaw
Well, this one’s obvious. He’s the best pitcher in baseball and continues to make his case as one of the best of all time. After another sparkling campaign, Kershaw is in line for his third NL Cy Young Award and possibly the MVP. His 21 wins lead all of baseball, as do his 1.77 ERA and strikeout rate. After Wednesday's dominating outing over the Giants (8 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BBs), he ended the night leading all three NL Triple Crown categories. Really, what else needs to be said? He missed the entire month of April and still might be having the best season of his career. The whole world swoons.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Solidifying the middle of the order
Ever since the Dodgers moved Matt Kemp to right field in mid-July, and ever since the Dodgers moved Matt Kemp to the clean-up slot in the batting order, the team has been better. Early in the season, nobody knew what to do with Kemp. They played him in center field, they moved him to left. They batted him all over the order, leaving runners (like Dee Gordon) stranded on base. Once they found an everyday position for Kemp, things started to click. And with that sort of protection in the 4 slot, Adrian Gonzalez has flourished batting third. In Kemp’s 214 at-bats as a right fielder, he’s batted .308 with 15 homers and 49 RBI. In his 301 at-bats as a left or center fielder, he’s batted .276 with 8 homers and 35 RBI. — Stats through Sept. 24
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Flash Gordon Jr.
After playing in a smattering of games during his first three years in the league, yet failing to gain an everyday role, Dee Gordon emerged as one of the league’s best second basemen. In his first three years Gordon fought guys like Justin Sellers for playing time and spelled Hanley Ramirez when he was injured, but after everyday second baseman Mark Ellis left for the greener pastures of St. Louis, Gordon opened the season as his fill-in. He proceeded to bat .344, and swipe 13 bases in the first month of play and cement his status as not just a fill-in, but a top-shelf second baseman and lead-off hitter. His 12 triples and 64 stolen bases lead all of baseball.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Picking on the little guys
Besides the Giants, who the Dodgers fought off to take the division crown, the rest of the NL West provided little competition for the boys in blue. The Dodgers laid waste to the Padres (12-7 record against), Diamondbacks (15-4), and Rockies (10-6), amassing more than 40 percent of their wins against the three teams. Among their four sweeps of Arizona, the Dodgers opened their season with a two-game sweep of the D-backs on the other side of the world (Australia).
Getty ImagesHarry How
A-list first pitches
Without a hard stat to quantify its importance, you’ll just have to trust that the Dodgers have gotten a significant boost from the parade of celebrities that have thrown out first pitches this year. From Jessica Alba (pictured) and Chrissy Teigen, to Mo’ne Davis and Kate Walsh, Dodgers’ games are turning into the new Lakers’ games. And just in time, because LA fans needed a winning team to get behind.