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Dodgers end drama, wrap up NL West

Dodgers end drama, wrap up West

LOS ANGELES -- This time there wasn't a frantic dash by the Dodgers' clubhouse attendants to roll up the plastic covering every locker.

Nor was there a mad rush to hide the beer and champagne that rested on ice in the center of the room.

Instead there was a joyous Matt Kemp bursting into the clubhouse and shouting what probably was on the minds of most of his teammates after the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 5-0, to claim their second consecutive National League West title on Saturday night:

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"I've been saving my goggles for a long time."

Aside from setting off a raucous champagne celebration, the win determined the route the Dodgers must undertake in the playoffs.

The Dodgers will play the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series as the NL's top playoff seed (Game 1 is on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium), while the Phillies will take on the Rockies in the other Division Series.

And to ensure those matchups took place, the Dodgers went back to the successful formula that propelled them to the division championship: dominant pitching and timely hitting.

Clayton Kershaw took care of the first part right from the get-go.

Kershaw struck out the first five batters he faced and fanned seven the first time through the Rockies' batting order.

With Kershaw, the Dodgers set the tone that Saturday night would be different.

The club showed more emotion than in previous games -- Kershaw fist-pumped after striking out the side in the first -- and the crowd started to feed off the electricity generated when the young lefty was on the Dodger Stadium mound.

"You couldn't ask for a better performance than he put out there tonight -- striking out the first five of six," closer Jonathan Broxton said. "You just had that air -- that air in the stadium -- that we were going to clinch it tonight when he went out there and took the mound like that."

In all, Kershaw finished with 10 strikeouts and pitched six scoreless innings in his final start of the season.

"Strikeouts happen," Kershaw said. "They were taking some pitches early and just getting deeper into counts and it just happened. It's not something I control."

Despite the effort from Kershaw, for much of the game the Dodgers' offense was not able to squeeze out any runs.

Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa threw three shutout innings before leaving the game with left groin tightness in the bottom of the fourth, and Jose Contreras came out of the bullpen to toss three more scoreless frames.

But the Dodgers' luck turned around in the seventh.

Casey Blake lend off the inning with a single to center field and advanced to second on an error by Carlos Gonzalez.

After James Loney bunted Blake to third, the Rockies moved their infielders in for a potential play at the plate.

But first baseman Todd Helton couldn't glove a smoked ground ball from pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, and the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead.

"Casey Blake, when he hit that [single] and they moved the runner over to third, it was the momentum going," Belliard said. "When [manager Joe Torre] called me, I gotta do something." That hit gave the Dodgers their first lead since the ninth inning on Sunday in Pittsburgh, and seemed to unleash a lot of pent-up frustration that had been building since their last win.

The Dodgers knocked three more hits and scored four more runs to end the inning with a 5-0 lead.

George Sherrill and Broxton combined to shut down the Rockies in the eighth and ninth to preserve the win and set off the massive celebration.

There was certain symmetry to the fact that it was Broxton that recorded the game's final out.

After all, it was just last Sunday when Broxton gave up four runs in the ninth inning and blew the Dodgers' first opportunity to clinch the division.

"You hate to blow one like that, especially to clinch the division," Broxton said. "I went out there tonight and handled business."

And after Andre Ethier caught the game's last out, all the negativity that surrounded the team this past week washed away.

"One win does a lot of things for a team," Kershaw said. "Sixth time's the charm for us."

Or as Torre put it:

"We were some of those people who didn't think it came soon enough.

"We were on the brink last Sunday against Pittsburgh. I'm just glad Broxton was on the mound tonight to finish it off -- it was very satisfying."

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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