Dodgers happy, not hung over
Upon entering the Dodgers’ clubhouse Sunday, there were visible signs pointing to the aftermath of a champagne-filled celebration the previous night.
Players walked in and appeared relaxed. A champagne bottle featured their signatures. And the smell was similar to the basement of most fraternity houses.
“It stinks in here,” one player observed.
After the Dodgers finished the regular season Sunday with a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies before 51,396 at Dodger Stadium, they hope they have erased the foul odor after going through six attempts before clinching their second consecutive National League West crown Saturday.
The Dodgers (95-67) will find out whether that’s the case Wednesday when they host Game 1 of the National League division series at Dodger Stadium against the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals (91-71).
“The way our ballclub has responded in big games, I’m not really concerned about whether we’ll show up or not,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. “Usually it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes and a break or two.”
In a regular-season finale that Torre properly noted “didn’t mean anything in the standings,” the Dodgers instead looked ahead to the postseason.
Although Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw are scheduled to start Games 1 and 2, Torre said “we still have a decision to make” regarding the rest of the four-man rotation.
Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch between five and seven simulated innings today at the Dodgers’ training complex. Vicente Padilla’s performance Sunday (10 strikeouts and one earned run and four hits in five innings) surely helped his case. “I didn’t think of it that way,” he said through an interpreter. “I just wanted to win the game.”
Then there’s Jon Garland, who lost in all three of his starts against St. Louis this season (two with Arizona and one with the Dodgers).
Wolf, who finished this season with a 3.23 earned-run average that is his lowest since 2002, acknowledged he will be filled with nerves as his Game 1 start approaches.
“Once you start warming up, it gets back to being a routine,” Wolf said. “It’s like a comfort zone when you get out there on the mound. That’s where I feel comfortable. Sitting in the clubhouse and waiting until it’s time to get going, that’s the hardest part.”
Backup catcher Brad Ausmus, who managed the team as part of Torre’s tradition to hand his team over to a veteran on the last day of the regular season, rested certain teammates recovering from injuries. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard (strained left groin) didn’t play and third baseman Casey Blake (strained left hamstring) played four innings.
“There’s some guys you want to give a break and there’s some guys you want to get more at-bats,” said Ausmus, who put himself in as a pinch runner for Jim Thome. “We’re fortunate we’re in a position where we can have something like this.”
The Dodgers don’t want any uncertainty beyond the start of Game 2, the time of which won’t be determined until Tuesday, an hour after a tiebreaking game between Detroit and Minnesota. If the New York Yankees choose an eight-day series against the Twins-Tigers winner, the Dodgers will play Game 2 on Thursday at 3 p.m. If the Yankees opt for a seven-day series, the Dodgers will play at 6:30 p.m.
The Dodgers deem the playoffs as a blank slate.
But they also say a two-game winning streak can only help their postseason chances, especially when it ended a drawn-out process to win the division.
Said Blake: “It’s a shot in the arm, adrenaline and energy when you need it.”