The Dodgers' postseason fate won't be decided for another three weeks. But when it is, Manager Don Mattingly says he'll be able to point back to Wednesday's epic game with the Washington Nationals as one that helped determine his team's future.
And since Mattingly believes the Dodgers will make the playoffs and Wednesday's game was one his team lost, falling, 8-5, in 14 innings, this will take a bit of explaining.
FOR THE RECORD:
Dodgers: An article in the Sept. 4 Sports section said the Dodgers twice rallied with two-run homers to tie the score of Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals. The first rally was not on a Justin Turner home run, but on a ball hit by Turner that was dropped by Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth, allowing Andre Ethier to score.
Yes, his team gave up three unearned runs in the final inning, let a two-run lead get away and loaded the bases twice in extra innings without scoring. Yet, Mattingly insists he saw more good than bad in the game which, at 5 hours 34 minutes, was the Dodgers' longest of the season in terms of innings and time.
"I don't think this game comes back to haunt us," Mattingly said. "I think this is a good game for us. From the positive side, this effort right here and this determination and perseverance from our guys is going to get us where we want to go."
Certainly there were positives, such as rookie Carlos Frias throwing six scoreless innings in his first start. Or the Dodgers, down to their last out twice, rallying to tie the score both times, first in the ninth inning on Justin Turner's drive into the right-field corner that Jayson Werth dropped and in the 12th on Carl Crawford's two-run home run.
But there were even more negatives in a game that featured 51 players, three errors, three blown save opportunities and 30 strikeouts.
Without a true setup man, Mattingly had to ask Kenley Jansen to get a four-out save and he failed, giving up three runs in the ninth inning. The Dodgers, who were a dismal two for nine with runners in scoring position, left 12 men on base. Then there was Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, who were a combined one for 10, with Gonzalez striking out with the bases loaded in the 10th.
But when the clubhouse doors opened to the media Gonzalez and Ramirez, two of the team's leaders, were gone and Matt Kemp was on his way out, leaving role players like Justin Turner and Tim Federowicz to offer the team's spin on the tough questions.
"There was definitely a lot of pluses," Federowicz said. "There's plenty of times you think we're out of it and we come right back. That's the type of team we are."
In the Dodgers' mind, Wednesday's game wasn't so much a loss as it was a learning experience.
"You can worry about it and stress yourself out about it or you can put it behind you and just focus on the things you can control," said Crawford, who had three hits to raise his average to .409 in his last 20 games. "This game is over with already. It's a loss.
"Nothing we can do, so we've just got to worry about what's ahead of us."
Immediately ahead for the Dodgers is a day off Thursday, followed by a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. And just behind them are the San Francisco Giants, who trail the Dodgers by two games in the National League West race, a race the Dodgers must win to avoid a dangerous one-game wild-card playoff.
"Right now our focus is just winning games, trying to win our division, knowing that every day is important," Mattingly said. "Obviously, you want to get into the playoffs, but if you get in you'd really like to win the division because you don't want to play in the wild-card game.
"One game, you never know what could happen. The ball could bounce the wrong way. Everything could go wrong. It's just one of those games you don't want to be in."
Which brings us back to Wednesday and all the positives the Dodgers believe can come from losing a 14-inning heartbreaker.
Of course there's the possibility the team could lose the pennant by a game, in which case they'll look back on Wednesday in a completely different way. But why dwell on the negative? The Dodgers aren't.
"I'm real happy about a lot of that stuff," Mattingly said of the game. "Obviously, we had a few chances … and it didn't work out for us. But overall, a lot of good things today."