The Dodgers can clinch their fifth postseason berth since 1988 on this afternoon if the Diamondbacks lose at St. Louis, or tonight when they face the Padres in their final home game of the regular season. The game is already sold out.
"Whichever way it happens, as long as it happens," first-year Dodgers manager Joe Torre said after guiding his club into the post season for the 13th consecutive season.
"If we get a chance to celebrate, we'll do it. We still have a little work to do. Tonight we couldn't have asked for anything better. It's been a bumpy road, no question. The players have handled what they've had to handle."
Unless the Cardinals beat Arizona again, the roadblock to breaking open the champagne is Jake Peavey, who is tough on the Dodgers. Facing the Padres will be veteran Greg Maddux, who is still looking for his 355 career win to tie Roger Clemens on the all-time list.
"So many guys are stepping up," said James Loney, who knocked in his team-leading 89th run and who watched Garciaparra homer in the past two games starting ahead of him at first base against left-handed opposing pitchers.
"It's not just one or two guys we have. That's the great thing about this team, the biggest thing. We seem to have all the right pieces -- speed, defense, power and pitching."
The heavy lifting this night was handled by Ramirez, Garciaparra, Loney and Angel Berroa who each collected a pair of runs batted in as Los Angeles recorded their 18th win in the last 23 games.
While moving to eight games over .500 (83-75) they turned things around after their record slipped to 65-70 and trailed Arizona by 4 1/2 games on August 30, not incidentally about the time that Manny Ramirez stepped off the plane from Boston.
Ramirez said he wasn't thinking about the postseason when the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers on July 31.
"I was trying to fit in, play the game and show people that I could play and play hard," he said. "That was my attitude."
Rookie Clayton Kershaw (5-5), who wasn't even on the Dodgers' roster when the season opened, earned the victory, allowing six hits and three runs in 5.2 innings. The left-hander walked two and struck out seven before being relieved after 91 pitches by Chan Ho Park, who retired the final Padre in the sixth.
"This is the best I've felt maybe all year," Kershaw said after the game. "When I first got up here, I was rushing some things. I felt really comfortable on the mound tonight. It's an awesome feeling to be where I am right now."
"I wouldn't be afraid to do anything with this kid," Torre said. "He is pretty special. I had a sense of it the first minute I saw him."
San Diego tagged Kershaw for a pair of runs in the fourth inning on a single and a pair of doubles but the rejuvenated Garciaparra slammed his eighth home run of the season in the bottom of the inning. Casey Blake walked, Blake DeWitt singled and Matt Kemp tied the game with another single.
Andre Ethier walked and Garciaparra doubled in the fifth to break the tie. Nomar moved to third on a ground ball by Blake and Angel Berroa drove him in with a perfect suicide squeeze.
San Diego wouldn't go quietly and closed the margin to 4-3 in the sixth before Park took over to restore order.
Ramirez's 17th home run with Russell Martin on base with a walk boosted the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the inning. The amazing Ramirez is hitting .398 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 50 games with the Dodgers.
Joe Beimel allowed a sac fly in the seventh but a six-run eighth inning put the game in the books. The big inning started when Martin was hit by a pitch. Ramirez walked and Ethier singled in the first run.
Loney, who came into the game in the sixth, doubled for two more; Chin-Lung Hu doubled to score him and Berroa collected his second RBI of the game with a single to right, then he scored on Kemp's third hit of the game.
"Everybody is contributing right now," Garciaparra said. "For us to be in the position we are in and doing what we are doing right now, with putting that many runs up, everybody is doing their job. That's what we have to do if we are going to reach our ultimate goal, which is getting to the playoffs."
Manager Joe Torre struggled under the same tag many Yankee managers have over the years. The annual complaint went, "Supplied with an almost all-star cast, anyone would win with those players," and it was usually tinged with more than a little jealousy.
But Torre took an eclectic mix of veterans and talented but mostly untested youngsters to the post-season in what was a season-long struggle.
The Red Sox nation is still fuming that Ramirez is performing so well on left coast and now the post-seasonless Yankees can join the howling because the manager they cast off has come through again.
How much fun is that?
Now when the Dodgers earn outright possession of the NL West title, Torre will be put to the test again trying to determine the composition of the post-season roster.
However, before that they Dodgers need to nail down the title and the will send RHP Greg Maddux (7-13, 4.31 ERA) to the mound tonight to do just that.
Maddux has only a single win since his acquisition from San Diego, although he worked seven scoreless innings in Colorado without a decision. The Giants beat him in his last start but a couple ground balls had eyes and Manny misjudged a fly ball into a double. Greg is 25-16 lifetime against San Diego and only win for the Dodgers since that trade came Sept. 1, against the Padres.
The future Hall of Famer wanted to come to a contender for just this sort of opportunity and now he has it. ?
RHP Jake Peavy (9-11, 2.77 ERA) needs no introduction. He is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA against the Dodgers this year and over 21 starts against them, he's 12-1 with a 2.21 ERA. He's 10-0 against the Dodgers since the only time they beat him, Sept. 13, 2003, at Dodger Stadium. The Padres have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of his 26 starts.
Score by innings San Diego 000 201 100- 4 Los Angeles 000 222 06x-12 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Kemp cf 6 0 3 2 2.92 Martin c 3 2 2 0 .280 Furcal ph-ss 1 0 0 0 .363 Ramirez lf 4 2 2 2 .398 Sweeney ph 1 0 0 0 .133 Ardoin c 0 0 0 0 .227 Ethier rf 4 2 2 1 .302 Garciaparra 1b 3 2 2 2 .262 Loney 1b 2 1 1 2 .293 Blake 3b 4 1 1 0 .250 DeWitt 2b 1 0 0 0 .263 Hu 2b 1 1 1 1 .168 Berroa ss 4 1 1 2 .235 Proctor p 0 0 0 0 .000 Kershaw p 3 0 0 0 .069 Park p 0 0 0 0 .111 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Kent ph 1 0 1 0 .277 Repko pr 0 0 0 0 .154 Wade p 0 0 0 0 .000 Pierre ph-lf 1 0 1 0 .275 Totals 39 12 17 12 San Diego 35 4 12 4 Two-base hits- Blake (11), Garciaparra (9), Loney (35), Hu (2). HR- Garciaparra (8), Ramirez (17). RBI- Garciaparra 2 (28), Kemp 2 (75), Berroa 2 (16), Ramirez 2 (53), Ethier (75), Loney 2 (89), Hu (8). S- Berroa. LOB- Los Angeles 12, San Diego 7. DP- Berroa, DeWitt and Garciaparra. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Kershaw (5-5) 5.2 6 3-3 2 7 4.30 Park 0.2 1 1-1 0 0 3.06 Beimel 0.2 2 0-0 0 0 2.06 Wade 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 2.19 Proctor 1.0 1 0-0 0 3 5.68 WP- Kershaw, Proctor. HBP- Martin. T- 3:22. Att- 44,776.Colletti on Manny return
Tony Jackson, writing in the Los Angeles Daily News, reports that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he hopes to re-sign left fielder Manny Ramirez, whose acquisition at the trading deadline effectively turned the club's season around.
But Colletti was quick to qualify his statement by pointing out there are several factors that could prevent it from happening.
"There are a lot of dynamics to it," he told Jackson. "Depending on how those other dynamics play out, yes. He has been great. He loves to play the game. He isn't shy about the spotlight. He isn't daunted by that. He isn't always going to be successful, but that is the nature of the game. He brings it out here every day and plays. He has some passion for it." The most important of those dynamics are the length and size of the contract Ramirez will seek as a free agent this winter."
"Furcal returns; Penny Doesn't
Shortstop Rafael Furcal was activated from the disabled list for the first time in four months, his surgically repaired lower back and resulting hamstring irritation having healed enough to allow him to return to limited duty.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers placed pitcher Brad Penny on the 60-day DL, making him ineligible through the postseason and perhaps ending his 42-year stint with the club.
Penny, who has battled right shoulder problems all year, has a $9.25 million club option for next season. Because there are concerns about his health, club officials might simply pay him the $2 million buyout and take their chances on re-signing him at a greatly reduced salary as a free agent.
Dodger Blue Notes
-- Matt Kemp struck out for the 149th time, tying Bill Grabarkewitz's single-season franchise record set in 1970. ...The Hollenbeck Youth Center will present Dodgers Hall of Fame Broadcaster Jaime Jarrín with its Legacy Award today at a luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel downtown. It will include a tribute to the Dodgers, a Hollenbeck Youth Center gold sponsor.