Forty-year-old Brad Ausmus, who someday may be a real Major League manager, was put in charge with Mark Loretta as his bench coach and Jim Thome and Juan Castro as pitching co-coaches and handed Jeff Weaver the job as bullpen coach.
Under his inspired leadership the Dodgers scored four times in the first inning and he somehow induced Vincente Padilla to emulate Clayton Kershaw's 10 strikeout explosion on Saturday. Padilla followed instructions to the letter, fanning five in a row to open the game and collecting his 10th punchout to end the fifth inning.
Loretta and Castro coaxed another seven strikeouts out of James McDonald (2), Guillermo Mota (3), Scott Elbert (1) and Ramon Troncoso (1) to run the total to a remarkable 17 over the course of the game.
Padilla (4-0) allowed one run and four hits and 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk. He had a 2.99 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance with the Dodgers, after going 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 18 starts with Texas.
Both teams used their starters sparingly and Ausmus started pulling the few used out inning-by-inning to allow the near-sellout crowd to demonstrated their appreciation.
Juan Pierre, the odd-man out in the removal process after Ausmus ran out of outfielders to use, tripled to open the game. He finished with two hits, two stolen bases (#29 and #30).
Matt Kemp, who needed two hits to break the .300 mark, was hit by a pitch and Andre Ethier walked. Kemp grounded out in the second and was the first Dodgers' regular to leave the game.
Casey Blake's two-run single put the Dodgers on the scoreboard and Doug Mientkiewicz, who opened at first base and had three hits, singled in the third run.
A.J. Ellis collected his first Major League hit and run batted in when he drove in the fourth run of the first inning. Shortstop Chin-Lung Hu drove in the fifth run in the seventh inning with a double to the wall in right-center.
Ausmus used both of his pitching coaches (Tome and Castro) and his bench coach (Loretta) later in the game and then made himself the first player-manager since Leo Durocher in the early 1940's when he sent himself in to pinch-run. If he gave himself the steal sign, he apparently didn't see it or ignored it.
"I'm turning the reins right back over to Joe—if he ever shows up again," Ausmus joked after the game. "Today's just all about the fun. We're fortunate we're in a position where we can have fun like this. I have thought about doing it, but I'm still trying to get through the playing part of my career.
"There are times when I think I'd like to manage, and there's times when I think I'd like to walk away from a baseball stadium and never come back. But those are usually the days when I'm 0-for-4 with three strikeouts."
Los Angeles won their 95th game of the season, top mark in the National League and their most wins since 1985, after moving into first place on April 19 with a 14-2 win over the Rockies, won the season series 14-4 and finished three games ahead of Colorado.
Torre, in his second year at the Dodgers' controls, won their first 13 home games and finished with a 50-31 record in Chavez Ravine, their best mark since going 54-27 in 1991.
When the game and the regular season ended, former Dodgers manager and present Colorado manager Jim Tracy waived at Torre in the Dodgers Dugout and gave him the thumbs-up sign to wish him well.
Tracy's Dodgers came out of their dugout in the 2004 playoffs after they had lost three games to one and mingled with the Cardinals, shaking their hands and wishing them well.
Tracy's Rockies went a franchise-best 92-70, including 74-42 after Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle as manager on May 29. They finished 41-40 away from home, their first winning road record since when the expansion franchise was born in 1992.
"Trace is a good guy and a good baseball man," Torre said. "He sort of cleaned the slate over there and gave everybody the feeling they he trusted what they were doing—and they responded to him. And you can just see that by the way they play.
"The are out there playing with a lot of confidence because they feel good about who they are."
The final N.L. West standings:
w-l pct. gb Los Angeles 95-67 .586 -- Colorado 92-70 .568 3.0 San Francisco 88-74 .543 7.1 San Diego 75-87 .463 20.0 Arizona 70-92 .432 25.0 Score by Innings Colorado 010 000 011-3 Los Angeles 400 000 10x-5 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Pierre lf-cf 5 1 2 0 .308 Hudson 2b 2 0 0 0 .283 Castro 2b-lf 2 0 0 0 .277 Kemp cf 1 1 0 0 .297 Repko cf-rf 2 0 0 0 .000 Ethier rf 2 2 0 0 .272 Loretta 2b 0 0 0 0 .232 Blake 3b 2 1 1 2 .280 DeWitt 3b 2 0 1 0 .204 Mientkiewicz 1b 4 0 3 1 .333 Hu ss 4 0 2 1 .400 Ellis c 4 0 1 1 .100 Padilla p 2 0 1 0 .200 Mcdonald p 0 0 0 0 .000 Loney ph 1 0 0 0 .281 Mota 0 0 0 0 .333 Belisario p 0 0 0 0 .000 Elbert p 0 0 0 0 .200 Thome ph 1 0 1 0 .249 Ausmus pr 0 0 0 0 .295 Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000 ---------------------------------- Totals 34 5 13 5 Colorado 35 3 8 3 2B- Pierre (8). RBI- Blake 2 (79), Mientkiewicz (3), Ellis (1), Hu (2). LOB- Los Angeles 10, Colorado 7. SB- Repko (1), Pierre 2 (30). PO- Padilla; Repko. Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Padilla (12-6) 5.0 4 1-1 0 10 4.46 McDonald 1.0 0 0-0 0 2 4.00 Mota 1.0 0 0-0 0 3 3.44 Belisario 0.2 2 1-1 0 0 2.04 Elbert 0.1 0 0-0 0 1 5.03 Troncoso (sv 6) 1.0 2 1-1 1 1 2.72 HBP- Kemp, Repko, by Mota. T- 3:05. Att- 51,396.Playoff Times
Minnesota and Detroit will play a one-game, winner-take-all game for the American League Central title on Tuesday and that may throw the Dodgers playoff schedule out of whack. L.A. and St. Louis will open Wednesday in Los Angeles at 6:37 Pacific Coast time but the time of the second game is yet to be determined.
Because the New York Yankees are waiting to pick their playoff schedule, an honor granted them for having the best record in the American League, the Dodgers' Game 2 time still is to be announced.
If the Yankees choose the AL Division Series that begins Wednesday, the Dodgers' game against the Cardinals will be at 3:07 p.m. PCT Thursday. If the Yankees pick the series that begins Thursday, the Dodgers will play at 6:37 p.m. The Yankees have until an hour after Tuesday's one-game playoff to make their decision.
Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers drew an Major League-leading 3,761,669 to Chavez Ravine, the second-highest figure in franchise history behind their record 3,857,036 set in 2007. ...The Dodgers brass will huddle today and tomorrow to determine the 25-man playoff roster and the all-important starting rotation. Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw are locks for the game #1 and #2 starts. Chad Billingsley will pitch a simulated game at the Dodger training complex at Camelback in Arizona. Padilla's stock went up with his last performance and Jon Garland has lost all three of his starts against St. Louis this season. Stay tuned.