Dodgers Target Nationals, Pirates

With no disrespect to the Nationals or Pirates, it will be the Dodgers vs. the Dodgers this week. With the magic numbers to clinch a playoff spot and the National League West title down to single digits, the Dodgers will begin a rare late season East Coast swing Tuesday that takes them to the nation's capital and then off to Steelers country.

They are games the Dodgers should win. Finding the proper inspiration in front of sparse crowds might be the big challenge. That becomes the game within the game.

"We're not going to hide it -- everybody knows this team likes to play under pressure situations where there is an (intense) environment around it," right fielder Andre Ethier said. "That's when we perform well. Hopefully we don't let those adverse atmospheres like that get to us and play a bad game."

Ethier likes the back-to-the-wall situations most of all. He has six walk-off hits this season, four of them home runs.

In reality, it's an ideal way to end the season. Not only will the Dodgers get last-place teams in Washington and Pittsburgh, but they will get a day off next week before closing the season with three at home against the second-place Rockies.

--RF Andre Ethier hit the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career with a two-run home run in the third inning Sunday off the Giants' Tim Lincecum. Ethier has driven in 101 runs. He is the first Dodger with 100 RBI since J.D. Drew in 2006. Ethier's previous career high for RBI was 77, set last year.

--INF Ronnie Belliard started at second base Sunday for the third time in the last four games. Belliard, who entered play Sunday batting .308 for the Dodgers with four home runs and 12 RBI, was acquired Aug. 30 from the Washington Nationals. Asked if Hudson was still his permanent second baseman, manager Joe Torre said, "He's not starting today."

BY THE NUMBERS: 40 -- Doubles for Andre Ethier, the first time a Dodgers player has reached 40 doubles since Shawn Green did it in 2003. The 40 doubles are tied with Raul Mondesi (1996) and Eric Karros (1999) for sixth most in club history. In fifth place is Mondesi again with 42 doubles in 1997.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As Yogi (Berra) would say, it's deja vu all over again. You've seen him do it, you want to visualize it and when he does it, it's just surreal. We talk about guys growing up and this kid is just growing as he goes." -- Manager Joe Torre, on Andre Ethier, who hit his fourth walk-off home run of the season Sept. 15 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

--SS Rafael Furcal looks to be coming around offensively at the right time. He went 6-for-20 (.300) on the Dodgers' just completed six-game homestand and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games. He has scored 15 runs in his last 14 games. Tuesday comes a matchup with the Nationals' Livan Hernandez. He has hit .361 (26-for-72) with four home runs against Hernandez in his career.

--C Brad Ausmus might be a good option to start Tuesday at Washington over regular catcher Russell Martin. Ausmus is batting .323 (10-for-31) in his career against the Nationals' probable starter, Livan Hernandez. Ausmus has hit safely in 16 of his 25 starts and has a .298 batting average (25-for-84) in that span.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda will face the Nationals on Tuesday for the first time in his career. They are the only National League team he hasn't faced. Kuroda has not walked a batter in 16 consecutive innings over his last three starts.

--INF Ronnie Belliard will return to face his old team in Washington on Tuesday. Belliard is batting .304 (17-for-56) for the Dodgers since being acquired Aug. 30, with four doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI. He batted .361 for the Nationals in August with five doubles, three home runs and 22 RBI.

--C Russell Martin appears to be backpedaling again after a recent 6-for-15 stretch lifted his batting average to .260. Since then, Martin is 2-for-22, including an 0-for-4 game Sunday against San Francisco. Martin is still making contact, though -- he has only four strikeouts in his last 11 games (49 plate appearances).