Dodgers Need Two Wins for NL West Title

It looked for a moment as if the parade has passed the Dodgers by -- again. Leading 3-1 they allowed three in the seventh to slip behind for the first time in the game but then, reverting to the Torre Mantra, they became exceedingly picky at the plate, drew four walks, got a big pinch hit from Jim Tome and beat the pesky Pirates 8-4, clinching a wild chard spot at the very least.

So the Dodgers are in the post season scrum for the third time in four years the fourth time in six years under three different managers. (Jim Tracy in 2004, Grady Little in 2006 and two in a row under Joe Torre).

St. Louis helped out by beating Colorado and the Dodgers magic number for nailing down their second consecutive NL West title slid to two. They last won the division in successive seasons in 1977 and '78.

Torre tied Braves manager Bobby Cox's record of reaching the playoffs in 14 straight seasons. Torre made the postseason during all 12 years he managed the New York Yankees from 1996-2007, then did it with the Dodgers the past two seasons.

The Dodgers joined the Yankees as the second team to clinch a post-season spot and with the National League's best record (93-62) they are in line to gain home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs. St. Louis cliniched the NL Central title later in the evening.

The last time the Dodgers crafted a cluster of postseason action came in their legendary string in 1963, 1965 and 1966, all pennant winners. This will be the 26th time since 1900 the Dodgers play in the postseason.

The celebration, if it could be called that, was reserved. Two empty bottles of champaigne, a scattering of paper cups and a wine glass or two was all there was to show for the clinching.

Manager Joe Torre and General Manager Ned Colletti spoke individually to each player as the team showered and dressed. Most of the players left quickly to find something to eat, leaving only veterans Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta to watch the Cardinals beat Colorado and drop the number of wins needed to become NL West champions to two.

Randy Wolf held the Pirates to two runs and four hits over 6.1 innings and left the game with a 3-1 lead before Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill, on an uncharastericlly off nights, gave the lead away.

Torre and Colletti agreed that they should have a brief celebration for reaching the postseason. "A celebration is saying, 'We reached what we want to reach,' " Torre said. "We knew we had to recognize getting to the postseason."

The big eighth inning saw the Dodgers going back to their basics, working the count and getting the pitch they wanted. Manny Ramirez walked for the second time and with one out Ron Belliard dropped a soft single into left field.

Then pinch-hitters James Loney and Andre Ethier, hitting for Russ Martin, along with Orlando Hudson all went deep into the count after falling behind with two strikes on them.

Former Dodgers third baseman Andy LaRoche, who had homered in the fourth inning for the first Pirate run, leaned into the Pirates' dugout and caught Ethier's foul pop but dropped the ball as he pulled his glove back, giving Andre a second chance.

Loney's walk loaded the bases; Ethier and Hudson forced in the tying and lead runs.

Pinch-hitter Jim Tome, who also was down in the count 1-2, laced a shot into right center to drive in the final two runs of the inning and Belliard slugged a high, arching shot down the left-field foul line and into the seats in the ninth for the final run of the game.

Backup catcher Brad Ausmus pinch-ran for Thome after his big single and laughed about it after the game. "When was the last time a 40-year-old pinch-ran for a 39-year-old?" he asked. "That's what I want to know."

Scott Elbert made another spot appearance and again retired a left-handed hitter to lead off he eighth. Ramon Troncoso gave up a pair of soft singles before retiring the side and Jonathan Broxton nailed the win down with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth, although it was not a save opportunity.

The Dodgers looked like they would open the game up in the first inning when Furcal dropped a single into left field but was cut down attempting to stretch it into a double. Juan Pierre doubled to deep center and Ramirez crushed a double over the center fielder's head that hopped over the fence.

But with all that sound and fury, they only manage one run out of it.

Two more came across in the fourth after Ramirez walked, Belliard singled and Mark Loretta blooped a double to left. Martin's ground ball made it 3-0.

LaRoche's homer cut the margin to 3-1 and the game went that way until Wolf tired in the seventh and the two Dodger lefties, Kuo and Sherrill, gave up three in the eighth.

The celebration afterwards was appropriately brief. "I am proud," Colletti told Ken Gurnick of "It's been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, whether in uniform on the field, scouts in the field, those in the office. Everybody grinding it out every day. I told the team that every team goes through tough times. We did, too. We stood together, supported each other and that got us where we are today."

"The season is measured by what you do with what you've got," he said. "The celebration was soft, classy, three minutes, a couple toasts. Sip some champagne and on to tomorrow. There's still a lot we want to accomplish. Most of the players have been here before. It's not like tonight is new.

"I told them I'm proud of how they persevered and it's only step one. I've always said, you just want to be in it at the end and anything can happen. We're in it. All you want is a chance and we're going to have a chance."

Clayton Kershaw, who tested his right shoulder with two shutout innings in Pittsburgh, makes his first start in three weeks today, the third game of a four-game series with the Pirates.

Kershaw has a nine-start winless streak and is 0-3 despite the fact he has had 2.41 ERA during that time. The Dodgers have scored a total of seven runs in his last five losses.

The 21-yer-old has a 2.85 ERA, the seventh lowest in the National League, and his .200 opponents batting average is lowest in the league. He will be limited to 70 pitches or so.

The Dodgers will be facing rookie RHP Daniel McCutchen (0-2, 5.25 ERA)?who has allowed at least one homer in each of his four starts.

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	100 200 041-8
Pittsburgh	000 100 300-4

 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  0  1  0  .268
Pierre cf	5  1  1  0  .311
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .200
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
Ramirez lf	2  2  2  1  .299
 Repko lf	0  0  0  0  .000
Kemp rf-cf      5  0  0  0  .303
Belliard 3b	5  3  3  1  .270
Loretta 1b	3  0  2  1  .230
 Loney ph-1b	1  1  0  1  .286
Martin c	2  0  0  1  .253
 Ethier ph-rf	1  1  1  0  .276
Hudson 2b	2  0  0  1  .285
Wolf p	        3  0  0  0  .162
 Kuo p        	0  0  0  0  .000
Sherrill p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Thome ph	1  0  1  2  .249
 Ausmus pr-c	0  0  0  0  .301
 Totals	        35  8 11  8
 Pittsburgh	33  4  7  4  

2B- Ramirez (24). Loretta (7). 3B- Pierre
(7). HR- Belliard (10). RBI- Ramirez (62), 
Loretta (24), Martin (51), Ethier (104),
Hudson (62), Thome 2 (76), Belliard (38).
LOB- Los Angeles 8, Pittsburgh 5.
Pickoff- Martin.

 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Wolf        	6.1  4  2-2  1  5  3.22
Kuo        	0.1  1  2-2  1  0  2.89
Sherrill (1-1)	0.1  1  0-0  1  0  0.47
Elbert	        0.1  0  0-0  0  1  5.09
Troncoso 	0.2  1  0-0  0  0  2.68
Broxton	        1.0  0  0-0  0  2  2.32
 WP- Kuo 2. T- 3:12. Att- 35,605.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Manny Ramirez came into Saturday's game 2-for-17, but he had a perfect night at the plate with an RBI double, single, three walks and two runs scored. ...Ronnie Belliard had his fifth homer in 20 games with the Dodgers and also had two singles, scoring three runs. ...Seven Dodgers drove in runs in the win. ...The Dodgers are 51-21 against the Pirates since 2000 and 24-8 at PNC Park. ...Furcal finished the Washington series 10-for-14, good for a .714 average. Since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, only one other player has had a higher batting average in a series with 10+ at-bats – Jimmy Wynn who went 13-for-18 (.722) in a four-game 1974 series against the Padres. ...