SAN FRANCISCO -- No Dodgers team or manager in the 132-year history of the franchise has finished in first place in three consecutive seasons until Tuesday night, when Don Mattingly's club clinched the NL West title again.
It's not the World Series -- the primary achievement fans will celebrate after a 27-year drought -- but a mandatory step on the way.
Mattingly thanked Guggenheim Baseball Management (3-for-3 as owners), his staff and especially the players, whom he paid an ultimate compliment when asked to compare this title to the past two.
"There was a lot more professionalism this year," he said. "They got ready to play and I could trust that when they took the field they were ready.
"It's just great to do it again. It takes a lot of perseverance. The other two times, we got kicked out and hopefully we'll play some great baseball and see where it goes."
Still to be determined for the best-of-five NLDS is home-field advantage. The Dodgers' first-round opponent, the New York Mets, hold a one-game advantage over the Dodgers. The teams met seven times this year, with New York winning four, which gives the Mets the home-field tiebreaker if the clubs finish with the same regular-season record.
July was marked by a struggling Dodgers bullpen, and that was a huge factor in the two series. In the four losses, Dodgers relievers were the pitchers of record for three of them. In the seven games, the Dodgers bullpen allowed 17 runs in 17 2/3 innings for an 8.66 ERA.
Kershaw and Greinke will start the first two games. Brett Anderson has been the third starter, although his recent form leaves open the possibility that Alex Wood could start the third game.
History buffs will recall the clubs playing twice in previous postseasons. In the wild 1988 NLCS, the Dodgers won in seven games to advance to the World Series. That NLCS included Orel Hershiser's workhorse performance, closer Jay Howell's ejection and suspension for using pine tar, Kirk Gibson's injury and Mike Scioscia's stunning home run off Doc Gooden.
The 2006 NLDS was hardly worth remembering for the Dodgers, who were swept three games as the Wild Card (after tying the Padres for first at 88-74). It was the series marked by reliever Joe Beimel's self-destructive hand gash suffered in a bar and base-running buffoonery in which Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew were tagged out at the plate on the same play by former Dodger Paul LoDuca.
The Dodgers have won 14 division titles and have played in 29 postseasons. They also have advanced to the postseason three consecutive times following major front-office shakeups -- 2004 under Paul DePodesta, 2006 under Ned Colletti and this year under Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.