Will The Dodgers End the Struggle Tonight?

It's one thing to struggle in an attempt to close out a division title, but the Dodgers have been abysmal of late. They were expected to thrive over the final three weeks with 10 combined games against the last-place Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. They went just 6-4 in those games (2-4 in the last six), although they did clinch a playoff spot in the process.

If the NL's worst teams are a challenge, how are they supposed to beat the league's best in the postseason?

In a seven-game trip to Washington and Pittsburgh, the Dodgers committed seven errors and gave up 10 unearned runs. In two games, all the runs scored by the Dodgers' opponent were unearned.

The Dodgers don't have to go very far for a pick-me-up, though. Manager Joe Torre was writing the lineups for the New York Yankees in 2000 when they lost 13 of their last 15 games, including the last seven. They ended up winning the World Series.

--RHP Charlie Haeger waited 15 days to get into a game, and when it finally happened Monday he lasted just four batters. Haeger had to leave Monday's game at Pittsburgh when he was hit in the leg by a line drive from Luis Cruz. The knuckleballer made three August starts but left the rotation when the Dodgers acquired Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland. He has made three relief appearances since.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda gave up four unearned runs to the Pirates on Monday, but he wasn't entirely without blame. He did give up eight hits, including two home runs, in his worst outing since returning from the disabled list Sept 6. Entering Monday's outing he was 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA since coming back from a concussion.

--LHP Randy Wolf is headed to the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. He doesn't figure to have a lot of time to get used to the atmosphere, as he likely will be the Dodgers' Game 1 starter in the NL Division Series. Also making his first postseason appearance will be 2B Orlando Hudson, an eight-year veteran.

--SS Rafael Furcal's series at Washington earlier this week was just short of historic. Furcal batted .714 (10-for-14) in three games against the Nationals. Jimmy Wynn is the only Los Angeles Dodgers player with a better average in a series with at least 10 at-bats, hitting .722 (13-for-18) in four games against the Padres in 1974.

--CF Matt Kemp leads all National League center fielders in home runs this season by hitting 24 of his 26 long balls this season while playing the position. The Tigers' Curtis Granderson leads all of baseball with 27 while playing in center. It's the most for the Dodgers since Jimmy Wynn hit 32 in 1974.

BY THE NUMBERS: .300 -- The batting average Matt Kemp needs at the end of the season to become the first player in Dodgers history to ever bat .300, hit 25 home runs, drive in 100 runs and steal 30 bases in one season. Kemp, who turned 25 on Sept. 23, reached the latest of those milestones one day later when his three-run home run got him to 100 RBI.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can't worry about it. You can't stress. We're in the driver's seat. We got our [rear end] kicked," he said after Monday's 11-1 loss. "It happens. You wish it didn't. It's bad timing, especially when you need to win one more game. But you move on to San Diego. Everybody else in the National League would rather be where we are, with our record, at this point in the season. We're playing for a division title and home-field advantage. We're in the driver's seat. There's no reason to panic. There is reason to go out there tomorrow and play with a purpose." --Catcher Brad Ausmus.

--LF Manny Ramirez sat out his second consecutive game Monday with a tender hamstring. Ramirez could have played, but an early morning storm left the field soggy and he was held out as a precaution. Ramirez tweaked his hamstring in Saturday's game against the Pirates.

--3B Casey Blake left the team after Sunday's game in Pittsburgh to have his tight left hamstring examined in Los Angeles. Blake was scheduled to see team doctor Neal ElAttrache. Blake last played Sept. 22 at Washington. He is scheduled to rejoin the team Tuesday at San Diego.

--INF Ronnie Belliard was given the day off Monday at Pittsburgh after he tweaked his groin in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. Belliard reported to the Dodgers' training staff that the injury was feeling better, and he is expected to miss only a few days.

--Reliever Charlie Haeger was lifted in the fifth inning after Luis Cruz's line drive struck him on the right knee and ricocheted into left field. Haeger was limping when he left the field, but Torre said the injury isn't believed to be significant.