LOS ANGELES – There were no crazy dogpiles atop the pitcher's mound, no champagne bottles in the home clubhouse, no "We Won The West" T-shirts waiting for the players at their lockers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't dare say it, but a raucous crowd at Dodger Stadium sure thought it. The Dodgers just might have clinched the National League West on Wednesday night, completing a sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 2-1 victory, powered by a masterpiece from Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers, winners of eight of their past nine games, led the Giants by 6 ½ games with 30 to play going into play Thursday night.
If the Dodgers play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Giants would have to go 21-8 to force a tie in the NL West. The Dodgers and Giants have four games left against each other, in San Francisco during the final week of the regular season.
"I'd expect those four games up in San Fran to matter," Kershaw said.
On Wednesday, Kershaw mattered.
In this era where six innings is considered a quality start, Kershaw threw his third complete game in his past 10 starts. He scattered six hits and tied a career high with 15 strikeouts, setting a career high with 251 strikeouts — the most by a Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966.
He heard "M-V-P" chants when he batted in the eighth inning, and when he took the mound in the ninth. He would not leave before he had secured the final out, even as he tied his career high with 132 pitches.
"That's just the MVP doing MVP things," pitcher Brett Anderson said.
In his past 10 starts, Kershaw is 7-0 with an 0.90 ERA. In 80 innings, he has walked seven and struck out 104. He lowered his overall ERA to 2.18.
The Giants' fifth straight loss left them facing their largest division deficit of the season. All three defeats to the Dodgers were by one run, and San Francisco has scored just 11 runs during its skid.
Kershaw's 15 strikeouts were the most against the Giants since Houston's Nolan Ryan had 16 on Sept. 9, 1987.