• Baseball

LA Dodgers claim first NL West title since 2009

ESPN staff
September 20, 2013
The LA Dodgers claimed their first title win since 2009 © AP

The Los Angeles Dodgers soaked everyone in sight with champagne in the clubhouse. Many players raced back out for a celebratory dip in Arizona's Chase Field swimming pool.

From last place to an NL West title in less than three months, they sure let loose.

Burdened by high expectations and a horrible start, the Dodgers relieved their pent-up pressure with a joyful celebration after becoming the first team this year to clinch a play-off spot. Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs as they rallied to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6 on Thursday.

"I want to keep going," Ramirez said. "I think that we've got a couple of more steps to do. We've got to keep working and stay together all the way through to the end."

Ramirez was back in the line-up after being sidelined for five of six games with an irritated nerve in his lower back. He has played 1,090 regular-season games but will be making his first ever trip to the post-season. Only three other active players have played more games without making the play-offs.

Despite an NL-high payroll of $214 million-plus on opening day, the Dodgers got off to a 30-42 start and were last in the division, nine and a half games behind the first-place Diamondbacks, before play on June 22.

Los Angeles has gone 58-23 since, including an unreal 42-8 run that coincided mostly with dynamic Cuban defector Yasiel Puig's call-up to the major leagues.

"I'm a guy that doesn't show a lot of emotion," manager Don Mattingly said. "I really try to keep it kind of even. But this is a great accomplishment for these guys. We put a great team together and a big payroll with huge expectations. A lot of time that falls apart and it had a chance to fall apart during the season, I thought.

"But the coaching staff stuck together. These guys were loyal to me. There was no backbiting or somebody trying to leap over me. They stuck together. ... The players came together, we got healthy, and then we just rolled."

The Dodgers trailed 6-3 in the sixth and A.J. Ellis hit a tiebreaking home run off Josh Collmenter(4-4) leading off the eighth.

J.P. Howell (2-1) got two outs for the victory. Kenley Jansen struck two in the ninth for his 26th save.

Clinching victory on the home field of their nearest (but not very near) rival, the Dodgers charged the mound after Aaron Hill flew out to left field for the final out. They mobbed Jansen and the throng bounced out toward second base in continued celebration. A few Diamondbacks watched from the dugout. Most made their way to the clubhouse.

"That was pretty awesome, man," Jansen said. "It showed that we never quit. We kept playing hard. Even today, they scored six runs, we never quit. That's pretty awesome."

Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the third inning and a tying solo shot in the seventh. It was his 14th career multi-homer game and first since August 2012.

It was fitting he was the star of the clinching win.

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This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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