How Sweet It Is!

Manager Grady Little rested most of his regulars Sunday afternoon but despite that the Dodgers stopped the Giants 4-3 to sweep the final regular season series. Eric Stults started and Chad Billingsley, one of four relivers used, earned the win when Ramon Martinez doubled to knocked in the tieing run in the sixth and Julio Lugo singled in the winner in the seventh inning.

Los Angeles put on a strong closing sprint, winning nine of the final 10 games to clinch a playoff spot but realized at the start of the day that if San Diego beat Arizona (which they did), the Padres would get the tiebreaker based on head-to-head compeition during the season and would fill the Division Leader slot in the post-season schedule.
Final N.L. West   w-l    pct    gb
Los Angeles      88-74  .543    -- 
San Diego        88-74  .543    -- 
San Francisco    76-85  .472   11.5 
Arizona          76-86  .469   12.0
Colorado         76-86  .469   12.0
Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Kenny Lofton, J.D. Drew and Marlon Anderson did not start the game and only Lofton made the lineup later as a pinch-runner.

Stults, a rookie left-hander, made his second major league start in place of Derek Lowe, who will be the Dodgers' Game 1 playoff starter. Stults allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in five innings, struck out one and walked two.

He might well have been the winning pitcher had he not thrown a sacrifce bunt away in the fifth inning that resulted in the third Giants run.

James Loney hit a solo homer, his fourth, onto the walkway beyond the right-field wall to give the Dodgers the lead in the second, but the Giants scored twice in the bottom half of the inning on Pedro Feliz's two-run double.

They added another run in the fifth on a single, a fielder's choice, Stults error on a sacrifice bunt and an infield hit.

From that point on, Billingsley, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson and Joe Biemel held the Giants to a pair of hits; Bonds' double in the sixth and an infield hit in the eighth.

The Dodgers tied the game in the sixth when Olmedo Saenz walked with one out and Matt Kemp beat out an infield hit. After Toby Hall was out on a fly to center, Martinez slammed as double to center, scoring both runners,

The eventual winning run scored in the seventh after Jason Repko workedhis second walk and stole second (#10). Julio Lugo singled to center to drive him in.

After Saenz had singled to lead off the eighth, Kenny Lofton ran for him and stole his 32nd base, No. 599 of his career. He took a shot at No. 600 moments later but was thrown out at third.

First-year Dodgers manager Grady Little, who was exsactly right when he predicated that 87 wins would put the Dodgers in the playoffs -- the exact number they attained Saturday night with their clinching win -- did a remarkable job working around numerout injuries and utilizing a number of rookies who were instrumental in winning the title.

First baseman Nomar Garciaparra sat out for the second straight day after tweaking his left side on a swinging strikeout in the eighth inning Friday. He reported that he would be ready for the first game.

It was probably the last game for a number of Giants, including Barry Bonds, final-day starter Jason Schmidt and manaager Felipe Alou. Bonds final swing in a S.F. uniform resulted in a double in the sixth off Billingsley.

After his hit, Bonds raised his batting helmet and waved it to the noisy crowd and hugged Dodgers third baseman Olmedo Saenz as he came off the field, lifted for pinch-runner.

The 42-year-old slugger finished 1-for-2 with a run scored to end his 14th season in the Bay Area and 21st of his big league career.

Playoff Plans-- Grady Little, when asked whether he preferred to play the Mets or the Cardinals, said: "Personally, I don't care."

The only thing Little would admit to is that Derek Lowe will start Game 1 regardless of the opponent or location. After that, nothing is certain. He seems to want Greg Maddux to start at home regardless.

They will probably carrying a 10-man pitching staff in the postseason, which means pitchers like Aaron Sele, Chad Billingsley and Elmer Dessens might set out.

Although only 25 players can be on the active roster, Little said the club would probably travel with 28 or 29. Once rosters are submitted before a series starts, they cannot be changed during that series.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles    010 002 100-4 10 1
San Francisco  020 010 000-3  5 0

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Repko, RF       3 1 1 0 .254
Ethier, LF      4 0 0 0 .308
Lugo, SS        5 0 1 1 .278
Loney, 1B       4 1 1 1 .284
Betemit, 3B     2 0 1 0 .263
 Saenz, PH-3B   1 1 1 0 .296
 Lofton, PR     0 0 0 0 .301
 Hendrickson, P 0 0 0 0 .000
 Beimel, P      0 0 0 0 .000
Kemp, CF        4 1 1 0 .253
Hall, C         4 0 2 0 .259
Martinez, 2B    4 0 1 2 .278
Stults, P       2 0 1 0 .600
 Young, PH      1 0 0 0 .000
 Billingsley, P 0 0 0 0 .083
 Tomko, P       0 0 0 0 .120
 Robles, 3B     1 0 0 0 .152
    Totals     35 4 10 4
    Giants     32 3  7 3

  Error- Stults. 2B- Martinez (7), Hall (17). 
HR- Loney (4). RBI- Loney (18), Martinez 2 
(24), Lugo (37). LOB- 9, San Francisco 6. 
SB- Lofton (32), Repko (10). CS- Lugo (9), 
Lofton (5). DP- (Betemit-Martinez-Hall).

  Dodgers in h r-er bb so era
Stults            5.0 4 3-2 2 1 5.60
Billingsley (7-4) 1.0 1 0-0 0 0 3.80
Tomko             1.0 0 0-0 0 1 4.73
Hendrickson       1.0 2 0-0 0 1 4.21
Beimel (sv 2)     1.0 0 0-0 0 1 2.96
  T- 2-46. Att- 42,831.
Dodgers Clinch-- The Dodgers have officially clinched their second postseason berth in the past three seasons. The Dodgers have won nine National League Western Division titles (1974, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1995) and one Wild Card berth (1996).

Peaking at the Right Time-- – The Dodgers have won 88 games, the exact amount that manager Grady Little predicted would be required to reach the postseason more than three months ago. The Dodgers' 87-74 record includes a 40-19 mark since July 28, when they were 48-55 and tied for seventh in the Wild Card race. That ties them with Oakland for the most wins in baseball during that span.

Furcal Keeps Streak Alive-- Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal has reached the postseason in each of his first seven seasons in the Majors, as his Braves won NL East Division titles each year from 2000-05. Furcal did not play in the 2001 postseason due to a dislocated left shoulder. There are seven American Leaguers who will be playing in at least their seventh consecutive postseason, all of whom are Yankees.

Postseason Appearances-- With the clinching, the Dodgers will advance to the postseason for the 24th time in franchise history, which ranks second all-time to the New York Yankees.

Rally Today-- As part of the citywide celebration of the Dodgers' NL West Championship, the team will host "Rally Monday," at CityWalk at Univeral Studios Hollywood today (Monday) from 6-8 p.m. The event, which will take place in each of the cities that have a playoff team, will include a live musical performance and appearances by former Dodger greats Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, "Sweet Lou" Johnson and local city officials.

Postseason Flavor-- The Dodgers' regular lineup during the final weeks of the season has 29 years of postseason experience entering the 2006 playoffs. Rafael Furcal (5 years), Kenny Lofton (9 years), Nomar Garciaparra (3 years), Jeff Kent (5 years), J.D. Drew (4 years), Wilson Betemit (2 years), and Marlon Anderson (1 year) have all reached the postseason at least once in their respective careers. In terms of postseason series, those eight starters have played in a combined 46 playoff series (Furcal - 5, Lofton - 17, Garciaparra - 5, Kent - 8, Drew - 6, Betemit – 2 and Anderson – 3). Their starting rotation includes Greg Maddux (11 years, 20 series), Derek Lowe (4 years, eight series) and Brad Penny (one year, three series), all three of whom have won World Series rings. -- Postseason notes courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers.