LOS ANGELES — After clinching a spot in the postseason on Tuesday, the Dodgers didn’t hold a big clubhouse celebration, opting to do a small champagne toast instead.
A big reason for that was because the Dodgers’ focus over the next three weeks will be on trying to chase down the Giants and celebrate a ninth consecutive National League West title. In order for that to happen, Los Angeles is going to have to rack up wins as San Francisco has been winning at a historic pace.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers were able to capitalize on a rare Giants loss, picking up a full game in the division race with a 5-3 win over the D-backs at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles is now 1 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the NL West race with 15 games left in the season.
The Dodgers also secured that the NL Wild Card Game would be held at Dodger Stadium in the event that they aren’t able to leapfrog the Giants in the division.
“We just have to take care of us and continue to play good baseball,” said Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who recorded his 13th consecutive scoreless outing. “If we just worry about us, good things are going to happen. I think that when we do that, ain’t nobody better than us in this league.”
Before the game, the Dodgers had mariachi on the field and celebrated the 40th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela’s debut. The celebration of the Mexican icon was even more fitting given that Mexican left-hander Julio Urías took the mound for L.A.
Urías responded with his Major League-leading 18th win, the most by a Dodgers pitcher since Clayton Kershaw went 18-4 in 2017. The Dodgers are now 23-6 in games started by Urías this season.
“It was nice to see everybody leave happy after we got a victory, especially on a night as big as tonight, especially for all us Mexicans,” Urías said in Spanish. “For me, all the love and respect that I know Valenzuela has in this city, it was something really beautiful.”
Despite his success on Wednesday, Urías saw a decrease in velocity, which initially raises some questions given that the left-hander has blown past his career-high in inning pitches (168 1/3). The velocity on his four-seamer was 1.4 mph lower than his season average. He also saw a dip in velocity on his changeup and curveball.
But Urías said he feels good physically and attributed the lack of velocity to his mechanics and not any lingering ailment. Even with the lack of velocity, Urías was able to find success. He allowed two runs and struck out five over five innings. With an extra day before his next start and his mechanics a bit out of whack, the Dodgers decided to be cautious with the left-hander, pulling him after just 76 pitches.
“I thought he was fighting his delivery all night,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “So to kind of get out with the lead, feeling good about that, not trying to tax him any more and get him to his next start, I thought that was the best way to manage him and to win the ballgame.”
With Urías doing just enough on the mound, the Dodgers’ offense had a third consecutive stellar game against the D-backs. They only put up five runs on the board, but they recorded 14 hits and struck out just three times.
Max Muncy launched his 34th homer, putting him one shy of his career high. He did, however, suffer a right knee contusion on a stolen base attempt in the third inning, but stayed in the game. He’s expected to be in the lineup on Friday against Cincinnati.
In the sixth, Trea Turner gave the Dodgers some more insurance, legging out an RBI infield single on what looked like a routine grounder to second base. Turner flashed his speed on the play, covering 31.9 feet per second on the hit.
“It’s incredible how fast he is,” Roberts said.
Turner’s aggressiveness on the basepaths has seemingly rubbed off on the rest of the roster. Mookie Betts stole third base on Wednesday, Muncy tried to pick up a rare stolen base (only to be ruled out after replay review), and Justin Turner and Will Smith each took an extra base on a base hit.
After a couple of shaky weeks, the Dodgers appear to be clicking on all sides of the ball. Chasing the Giants in the NL West has felt like an uphill climb for the Dodgers, but they feel much better after sweeping the six-game homestand against the Padres and D-backs.
“That’s our expectation, to win every day,” Roberts said. “Those guys [the Giants] are playing great baseball, but we just have to keep winning baseball games. If we do that, it’ll take care of itself.”