Dodgers Blank Diamondbacks, Clinch Playoffs; Magic Number for Division Down to One

Dodgers Diamondbacks

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 0

PHOENIX, Sep 12 — Cody Bellinger went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, and Mookie Betts added a three-run homer to put the game away in the ninth, as the Los Angeles Dodgers blanked the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6–0, to clinch a playoff spot Monday night. (Editor’s Note: Initially, the Dodgers — along with the rest of the league — thought they clinched the playoffs Sunday. However, a further look Monday morning revealed that initial reports failed to consider a tiebreaker scenario, so they had not clinched yet.)

Dodgers southpaw Tyler Anderson scattered five hits across seven scoreless innings, combining with relievers Evan Phillips and Phil Bickford, who each contributed one inning to the team shutout.

With the victory, the Dodgers have also reduced their magic number to clinch the NL West to one. This means one more Dodger win or San Diego Padres loss will give the Dodgers the division crown.

The first six innings were a classic pitchers’ duel, with Anderson and Diamondbacks right-hander Ryne Nelson trading zeros. In each of the first three innings, the Diamondbacks had a one-out baserunner. The first two came via the walk, while the third came on a single to right by shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, batting in the nine-hole. Both the second and third inning ended on ground-ball double plays, while the runner in the first was left on base. The Dodgers, on the other hand, had only one baserunner in the first three innings, and that came on a one-out single in the third by right fielder Trayce Thompson.

Dodgers, Diamondbacks Squander Scoring Opportunities

Both teams had runners in scoring position during the middle innings. Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner smoked a triple to the right-field corner with two outs in the top of the sixth, bringing up first baseman Freddie Freeman. When the count reached 2–0, the Diamondbacks intentionally walked him, putting runners on the corners for catcher Will Smith, whose liner to center retired the side.

The Diamondbacks opened the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles from second baseman Ketel Marte and right fielder Jake McCarthy. A liner to left by first baseman Christian Walker made for the first out. Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera advanced Marte to third with a fly to right, bringing up designated hitter Stone Garrett with runners on the corners and two out. He could not capitalize, striking out to end the inning. A one-out double in the sixth by Marte also went to waste, as a called strikeout by McCarthy and grounder to short by Walker left him stranded.

The Late Innings

Kyle Nelson came in to pitch the seventh for the Diamondbacks. The reliable lefty had his worst outing of the season. Muncy gave him a rude welcome with a double to the corner in deep left-center. Designated hitter Justin Turner followed with a comebacker. Nelson had a chance to retire Muncy, who strayed several feet off second, but the throw went well wide of Marte, who was covering the bag. Perdomo caught the errant throw and whipped it to first, but Turner beat it by less than a step.

Up next came Chris Taylor, pinch-hitting for Gallo. He drew a walk, loading the bases for Thompson. A deep fly to center plated Muncy for the first run. Bellinger followed with a double to center, scoring both Turner and Taylor. A fly to center by Betts and strikeout by Trea Turner retired the side.

Anderson retired Rivera on a fly to center for the first out of the bottom of the seventh. Garrett poked a single to center, but yet another ground-ball double play — this time by recently recalled left fielder Jordan Luplow — ended the inning with a whimper.

Sealing the Deal

Diamondbacks reliever Caleb Smith and Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips each pitched a scoreless eighth. Righty Keynan Middleton took the hill for the Diamondbacks in the top of the ninth. Justin Turner greeted him with a single to center. A fly to right by Taylor and strikeout of Thompson showed signs that Middleton would escape without any scoreboard damage, but a single to right by Bellinger prolonged the inning. Betts made Middleton pay dearly for failing to retire Bellinger, as he belted a no-doubt homer halfway up the left-field bleachers. The blast was a crushing blow, giving the Dodgers a 6–0 lead. Phil Bickford put the game to bed with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Marte and McCarthy before Walker popped foul to the first baseman.

The Betts homer did not matter as far as the game result went, however. After all, the Diamondbacks had a grand total of seven baserunners. Three were wiped out by double plays. Of the remaining four, only two reached scoring position. All, as mentioned earlier, were stranded on base.

Postgame Reflections

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Ryne Nelson impressed both managers. “He’s good,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I like his mound presence. Obviously, the first time we’ve seen this guy. There’s life to the fastball. I thought the curveball was good. He was able to strike it, shorten it. Threw a couple of changeups. But I thought he was good, and he certainly kept us at bay through six innings.”

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo called Nelson’s first two starts “fantastic.” And it was for good reason. With his performance Monday, that made 13 consecutive scoreless innings to start his career — a Diamondbacks franchise record. His WHIP across the two starts is a microscopic 0.615. Lovullo continued about his young fireballer, “He fills up the strike zone and has three pitches he can mix in at any time. Does a great job of following the game plan. And it’s about execution. He’s executing at a very, very high level.”

Lovullo admitted that pulling him after 81 pitches was “unconventional,” but Nelson was in that “uncomfortable area” for Lovullo, pitching coach Brent Strom, and the medical staff. “You can play armchair quarterback after it’s all said and done,” Lovullo said, “but he probably had 10–12 pitches left.” He added that wanting to give his relievers — who have struggled recently with inherited runners — a clean inning factored into his decision. Nelson himself said the decision “made sense” to him and that he understood it.

Given the vocal crowd and it being Nelson’s first career start at home, he said he “had to take a couple of breaths and calm down.” However, Nelson also “for the most part, felt good. I didn’t quite have all my stuff on point as I would like it, but I battled and competed, so that’s all I could ask for.” He added that there are “always a little but of nerves” when he pitches, although he feels more comfortable with each start.

Looking Ahead

Kyle Nelson (2–1) took the loss in relief, while Tyler Anderson (15–3) earned the win. The Dodgers (97–43) and Diamondbacks (66–74) meet again in Game Two of the three-game series Tuesday evening. Lefty Clayton Kershaw and righty Merrill Kelly will start for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, respectively. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

Main Photo:

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Players mentioned:

Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Tyler Anderson, Evan Phillips, Phil Bickford, Ryne Nelson, Geraldo Perdomo, Trayce Thompson, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Ketel Marte, Jake McCarthy, Christian Walker, Emmanuel Rivera, Stone Garrett, Kyle Nelson, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Jordan Luplow, Caleb Smith, Keynan Middleton, Dave Roberts, Torey Lovullo, Brent Strom, Clayton Kershaw, Merrill Kelly