Dodgers clinch 7th consecutive NL West title

BALTIMORE -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are dancing.

Los Angeles beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-3 on Tuesday night at Camden Yards to clinch its seventh consecutive National League West pennant.

In the divisional era (since 1969), only the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees have strung together more consecutive crowns. The Braves won 14 straight NL East titles from 1991 to 2005 (there was no postseason in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign). The Yankees were American League East champs nine years running, from 1998 through 2006.

Besides building on its impressive streak of West titles on Tuesday, L.A. also became the first MLB team to secure a spot in the 2019 postseason.

"You got to tip the hat to the front office and the job that they do every year creating so much depth," Justin Turner told Spectrum SportsNet LA after Tuesday's victory. "You look at the guys around this room, I think every single guy had their finger on winning this division for the seventh straight year. So many good players [with] one goal in mind -- that's to win the World Series."

Unlike last year, when they beat the Colorado Rockies in a Game 163 tiebreaker to earn a sixth straight division title, the Dodgers got it done early this time. By nabbing the crown in their 146th contest of the season, they tied the 2016 Chicago Cubs for the fourth-fastest clincher of this century. The three teams ahead of them -- the 2002 Braves, the 2017 Nationals and the 2008 Angels -- all failed to advance in the playoffs, and the '16 Cubs went on to win the World Series.

Before this year, the earliest clinch during the Dodgers' current string came in 2013, when they claimed the division in their 153rd game. From a calendar perspective, L.A.'s clincher is tied for the sixth soonest in the wild-card era, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The 2008 Angels and 2017 Nationals also clinched on Sept. 10. The 1998 Yankees, who did it Aug. 30, were the earliest.

As little suspense as there has been in the NL West this season, there was just as little Tuesday night at Camden Yards. The visitors jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the top of the first, three of which came courtesy of shortstop Corey Seager's 15th home run of the season. Seager also hit a two-run blast in the third, and highly touted rookie Gavin Lux launched a towering solo shot in the fifth, the first round-tripper of his career.

Right-hander Walker Buehler picked up the win, pitching seven scoreless innings to improve to 13-3. He walked none and fanned 11 to reach 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. After the final out, instead of a dog pile on the pitcher's mound, the Dodgers just went about their normal postgame business, shaking hands with one another before adjourning to the clubhouse for the usual beer- and champagne-filled celebration.

"This doesn't seem as dramatic," manager Dave Roberts said postgame, moments after sharing a moment with Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda, the former manager who led the team to the franchise's most recent championship in 1988. "Looking at the calendar, where we're at, it was more subdued. But it was kind of just organic. It's one of those things that, we expected it, it was obviously early in September, but doesn't take away from what we as an organization accomplished. As a game, it's tough. It's a grind. So when you do get moments like this, I think we do a good job of appreciating what we accomplished. It's special. It really is."

Said Seager: "Every year's obviously exciting. You can't ever take it for granted. It's something that doesn't always happen. Even though we've won seven in a row, it's never a guarantee. So you always enjoy it."

Once the celebration is over, the Dodgers will turn their attention toward gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"Everything we do going forward is to win 11 games in October," said Roberts, whose club has a .737 home winning percentage that ranks second in the majors behind the Houston Astros. "The question we're all going to get asked is, are we going to let our guard down, lose our edge going into the postseason? That's something that I don't expect from our team, and tomorrow we're going to expect to win a baseball game."

With Tuesday's victory over Baltimore, the Dodgers moved to 94-52. They have a four-game lead over Atlanta for best record in the National League, and are one game behind the Yankees and Astros for baseball's best mark. They are 18½ games ahead of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks, and have held at least a share of first for all but six days this year.