Actually, it’s pretty well in full swing already. By the time I got to the clubhouse, the smell of champagne already permeated everything. Joe Beimel just told Patrick O’Neal, in an interview broadcast on the DodgerVision board, that the Dodgers “can definitely win it all.” The revelry has now spilled from the clubhouse onto the field, giving a chance for the fans who stuck around to join in. Manny Ramirez and Pablo Ozuna just emptied the contents of whatever they could find in the clubhouse — boxes of sunflower seeds, tubs of bubble gum, whatever — onto the folks in the front row. Frank McCourt, who earlier today stressed the importance of the Dodgers actually taking this thing a step farther this year than they did in 2004 and 2006, is now on the big board getting doused by Matt Kemp and Pablo Ozuna. Frank just said, “It’s great to have a guy like Ned with the temperament that he has.” Read into that whatever you will. If you care, Dodgers fall to 83-76 and still lead the newly eliminated Snakes by four games.
… have yet to be finalized, or at least if they have been finalized, no one is talking. Greg Maddux was scratched tonight in favor of Eric Stults, and you’re smarter than I am if you can figure out what any of this means: Maddux is now starting Saturday, with Billingsley coming in behind him, and Kuroda is pitching Sunday. It is clear that D-Lowe and Billingsley are the starters for Games 1 and 2, respectively. It would SEEM that Kuroda is now the starter for Game 3. Torre said he might go with three starters because there is a second off-day on Oct. 6, which is between Games 3 and 4. But even then, Lowe would have to start Game 4 on three days’ rest, so they might end up going with Maddux in Game 4. Also, don’t forget Kershaw. Joe SAID that he hasn’t ruled out Clayton as a starter, and Ned Colletti said he is comfortable with Kershaw pitching throughout the playoffs.
That would be your Dodgers. The clincher wasn’t that exciting, no walkoff grand slam by Steve Finley or anything like that. It happened just now, when the Diamondbacks lost to the Cardinals. Dodgers won’t even take the field for almost five hours. It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Joe sends up against Jake Peavy tonight. But it really doesn’t matter how the Dodgers did it. The fact is, they did it, for the first time in four years and for the 10th time since the inception of divisional play in 1969, and it can be argued that none of the previous nine were as tough as this one. It was less than a month ago, after all, that the Dodgers were all but written off. They had lost eight in a row, including the first game of a critical, three-game series at Arizona, and they were 65-70 and going nowhere. And now, here they are, ready to douse each other with champagne after tonight’s game, win or lose. Joe Torre has now won 12 of these things as a manager (10 with the Yankees, one with the Braves and one here), and I can’t imagine any of the previous 11 were as challenging or as gratifying as this one will be. It’s anyone’s guess at this point how long the Dodgers will last in the playoffs. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess, who they’ll play in the first round. But considering where they came from, the simple fact that they have gotten here makes this a season no one will forget anytime soon.
NOW are you starting to smell it? I’m just wondering about that sellout crowd that is coming to (they hope) watch the boys clinch tomorrow night. What happens if the boys clinch before the gates even open? The Snakes play at 11:15 our time. That game will be over around two-ish, which is FIVE HOURS before the Dodgers even take the field. Talk about anticlimax. What we learned after the game is that there will be NO team watch party at the stadium. Everybody will just arrive at the usual time. If the Snakes lose, thus clinching the title for the Dodgers, the Dodgers will save their celebration for AFTER their game with the Pods. Except that I’m guessing (Torre didn’t say this, I’m just guessing) that if the Snakes lose, the Dodgers will throw something akin to a spring-training split-squad lineup out there against Jake Peavy, which means there is a good chance the Dodgers will lose. And then, after losing, they will go to the clubhouse and douse themselves with champagne. Talk about double anticlimax. What I DID learn after the game is that division title or no, the annual rookie hazing will go on as scheduled for tomorrow night’s flight to San Francisco. I’m sworn to secrecy on what the costumes are going to be, but let’s just say it’s an eclectic mix. The veterans found a costume rental place in South Pas that was going out of business, so they loaded up. … Dodgers go to 83-75 and, if you care, now lead the Snakes by four games with four to go. Tonight will NOT be the Dodgers’ last home game of the year. The only way they can blow this now is to lose out while the Diamondbacks win out, then lose to Arizona in a one-game playoff on Monday night at Chavez Ravine, hence at least one more home game.
This clears a 40-man spot for Furcal. Not a huge surprise, as Penny wasn’t expected to pitch again anyway, even in the playoffs. Torre said he’ll ease Furcal in, probably finding an innocuous situation for him the first time plays (think the late innings of last night’s game, when the Dodgers had a nine-run lead). Asked him whether Furcal could start a game and play nine innings, and Joe was non-committal. Said he would have to see how things went.