LOS ANGELES — Even before the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 8-4, on Tuesday night, their magic number to clinch a playoff berth lacked the usual magic.
It’s zero, for the record. The Dodgers’ win, combined with the San Diego Padres’ loss to the San Francisco Giants, ensured they would reach the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. Asked if this year’s team reminds him of any predecessor, third baseman Justin Turner declined.
“We’re kind of on our own path right now,” Turner said, “and playing really good baseball.”
The Dodgers (93-53) are on pace for 103 wins. Yet so far they’re headed straight for a wild card berth – a special path indeed. Only twice in franchise history, and not since 2006, have the Dodgers entered the postseason as a wild-card team.
With the best record in baseball, the Giants (95-50) have a chance to halt the Dodgers’ streak of consecutive National League West titles at eight. They lead the division by 2½ games with 17 regular-season games remaining; the Dodgers have 16 games remaining.
Maybe that’s why Turner was caught off-guard when asked before Tuesday’s game about the Dodgers’ plans to celebrate if they clinched.
“Although you don’t want to take those things for granted,” he said, “I don’t know if we’ll celebrate that.”
The team resolved to enjoy a modest celebration after the win, including a champagne toast. Turner said he shared a few words with his teammates. So did Manager Dave Roberts. Their words were aimed specifically at the players who haven’t been around for the Dodgers’ entire decade of division dominance.
“Enjoy the moment,” Turner said. “At the same time, know there’s still a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Dodgers never trailed Tuesday. Max Muncy, Will Smith and Trea Turner each hit home runs. Muncy has 33 home runs, third in the National League. He and Trea Turner each finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
The Dodgers are a perfect 5-0 on this homestand, which ends Wednesday night with a rematch against Arizona. The Dodgers have won 13 of 15 head-to-head meetings against the cellar-dwelling Diamondbacks (47-98).
Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin (3-1) did not allow a hit until Ketel Marte led off the fourth inning with a single. The right-hander allowed two hits and two walks while striking out six. He needed 67 pitches to get through five innings and threw only three pitches in a three-ball count.
“I felt like I was really effective at getting strike one,” Gonsolin said. “That gave me a little count leverage, working ahead in the count. I definitely was way more efficient today.”
This was Gonsolin’s second start following his return from the injured list. He missed all of August with a recurrence of right shoulder inflammation. In retrospect, Gonsolin said, overthrowing his fastball might have contributed to the injuries that have limited him to 11 starts this season.
“It could’ve been some of that, along with me wanting there to be more velo,” he said. “Now it feels like it’s coming out freer, and I’m not as concerned with the velocity.”
Ironically, by not attempting to coax more speed from his fastball, Gonsolin’s fastball averaged 94.8 mph – the fastest he’s thrown the pitch in an individual start since his regular-season debut on June 8. All four of his pitches were working Tuesday, Gonsolin said.
Marte would draw the Diamondbacks within 6-4 when he hit a three-run home run against reliever Justin Bruihl in the seventh inning.
But in the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers loaded the bases against right-hander Brett de Geus, whom they lost in the Rule 5 draft last December. Sacrifice flies by Smith and Justin Turner provided the final score.
Blake Treinen pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Kenley Jansen tossed a perfect ninth in a non-save situation. Jansen had missed the previous two games while on the paternity list.
For the Dodgers, it was a business-like effort, followed by the customary handshake line on the field. Their reserved commemoration of the occasion stood in contrast to the Giants’ clinching party the day before – a group photo on the field, and enough airborne adult beverages in the clubhouse to require goggles for the celebration.
“It’s something that definitely shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Justin Turner said. “I played on a team in New York that never had an opportunity to make the playoffs. We’ve had guys in other organizations that haven’t gotten there. A few guys here, this was their first time. We want to recognize it and make sure guys know it’s not something you take lightly.”