PHOENIX — 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 playoff spot. Hanley Ramirez homered twice 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 lineup after being sidelined five of six games with an irritated nerve in his lower back.
Despite an NL-high payroll of $214 million-plus on opening day, the Dodgers got off to an 30-42 start and were last in the division, 91/2 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,” said manager Don Mattingly, who’s job appeared to be in jeopardy when the team struggled this spring. “ 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. ... The players came together, we got healthy, and then we just rolled.”
Many Arizona players voiced displeasure with the Dodgers’ celebratory pool party at their home field. Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said, “I could call it disrespectful and classless, but they don’t have a beautiful pool at their old park and must have really wanted to see what one was like.”