Ailing Andre Ethier leaves Dodgers, availability for playoffs remains up in the air.

Andre EthierAndre Ethier left the Dodgers briefly Wednesday to have MRI and CT scans on his sprained left ankle in Los Angeles. The team announced that the sprain hasn’t healed, and Ethier won’t be cleared to play until he is able to run the bases without pain.

Ethier attempted to run the bases below full speed prior to Tuesday’s game in San Francisco, but cut the session short. His availability for the playoffs is still to be determined.

The National League Division Series begins Oct. 3.

Dodgers draw Barry Zito in their penultimate game against the San Francisco Giants.

Barry Zito

Barry Zito is replacing Madison Bumgarner on the mound for the Giants tonight. (Getty Images)


Veteran Giants left-hander Barry Zito is starting in place of Madison Bumgarner against the Dodgers tonight in San Francisco.

The Giants’ decision to shut down Bumgarner after 31 (mostly good) starts should be a good one for the Dodgers. Zito (4-11) is closing the books on the worst of his 14 major-league seasons and almost certainly his last as a Giant. It’s an important start. It also closes the book on the landmark case against overpaying for a free-agent pitcher with a declining strikeout rate in the middle of his career. To wit: Zito never had an ERA-plus below 100 in seven seasons with the A’s. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with San Francisco at age 28 and never posted an ERA-plus above 100 as a Giant.

For the Dodgers, the implications are more subtle.

The starting infield of Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. is auditioning for jobs in the playoffs. Of the four, Hairston (.370/.541/.630) and Schumaker (.368/.368/.526) have enjoyed considerable success against Zito, while Punto (.286/.286/.286) and Young (.236/.292/.315) have not.

Ricky Nolasco will make what is likely his final regular-season start for the Dodgers. Nolasco has struggled in his last two starts, including a Sept. 14 game against the Giants in which he allowed five earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings — the shortest start of his career. He might still be the Dodgers’ number-three starter in the playoffs depending on the matchup; no announcement has been made beyond Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching games 1 and 2. A good start here might be his last chance to get untracked before October.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:
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St. Louis Cardinals’ gain is the Dodgers’ loss.

The Dodgers’ chances of securing home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs took another step backward Wednesday.

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 4-1, giving them the best record in the National League at 94-65. The Atlanta Braves, who host the moribund Milwaukee Brewers tonight, are in a virtual tie at 93-64.

The Dodgers (91-66) are two games behind those teams with five games left in the regular season. If they are able to tie either team in the standings, the Dodgers have the advantage over the Cardinals based on their head-to-head record (4-3) but not the Braves (2-5).

If the standings don’t change, the Cardinals would host the Dodgers in Game 1 on Oct. 3.

The Dodgers had the best-selling series and the second-best selling game on StubHub in 2013.

The Dodgers lead Major League Baseball in attendance, so it’s no surprise that they have performed well on the secondary ticket market in 2013.

According to figures compiled by StubHub, the official secondary ticket site for MLB, the Dodgers sold more tickets than any other team on the site this season. Dodger ticket sales increased by 76 percent during the second half of the season, the second-highest increase of any team behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The two-game Dodgers-Yankees series on July 30-31 was the most popular series on StubHub all season, while the Dodgers’ season opener against the San Francisco Giants was the second-highest selling game on StubHub all year. The Yankees-Red Sox in New York was number one.

Daily Distractions: The importance of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s seven innings Tuesday night.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Giants to four hits and one run in seven innings on Tuesday. (Associated Press photo)

Our blogs were down yesterday. Sorry everyone. A dedicated team of top men in Denver patched things up in the middle of the night.

If this blog space were available during last night’s game, Hyun-Jin Ryu would have been the star.

Ryu will finish the season 14-7 with a 2.97 earned-run average, but he won’t win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Jose Fernandez has been a better pitcher and Yasiel Puig has made a bigger impact on his team than either Ryu or Fernandez.

But at some point last night I recalled filling out a brief survey back in spring training. A Korean reporter went around the press box at Camelback Ranch and asked each of the Dodgers beat writers to predict what Ryu’s won-loss record and earned-run average would be. I think I put down something quite average, say 11-11 and 3.70, simply because I couldn’t commit to the idea of Ryu being excellent or awful based on what little I knew at the time. Obviously, he’s been very good.

One recent exception had been Ryu’s ability to perform on long rest. Pitching on 11 days’ rest on Sept. 11 against the Diamondbacks, he was fairly awful, throwing 88 pitches and getting only three swings-and-misses. Ryu wound up allowing 10 hits and three runs in six innings (some double plays helped) but was the losing pitcher in a 13-6 drubbing.

Prior to that, Ryu last pitched on extra rest July 22 in Toronto. He labored through 5 ⅓ innings, throwing 102 pitches and again fooling few (seven swings-and-misses).

Why is this important?

If he doesn’t pitch the final game of the regular season Sept. 29, the next time Ryu starts will probably be Game 3 or 4 of the postseason, depending on how the Dodgers line up their rotation (and depending on if there is a Game 4; if the Dodgers are swept in the first round, we might not see Ryu until 2014). Even if he does pitch in turn Sept. 29, he’ll have six or seven days before his first playoff start.

If he doesn’t pitch Sept. 29 — and the Dodgers aren’t swept — Ryu might have as many as 12 games’ rest before his next start. That Ryu could take 11 days off and limit the Giants to one run over seven innings on Tuesday wasn’t just necessary to win the game, it was necessary to show he can survive a long layoff. That has to inspire a fair amount of confidence among Ryu’s teammates, manager and front office.

Remember too, this isn’t any pitcher we’re talking about — Ryu had never thrown a between-starts bullpen session before coming to America from South Korea late last year. He still hasn’t thrown off a mound between starts, except when tuning up following an injury. I believe that’s happened twice all season.

That said, don’t be surprised if Ryu pitches a simulated game or an extended bullpen session five days from now just to stay sharp. Don’t be surprised if he survives his first test in the playoffs, either.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday:
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Daily Distractions: As postseason field is set, the Dodgers aren’t alone with injury question marks.

Johnny Cueto

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (left, tagging Matt Kemp) has allowed two runs in two starts since coming off the 60-day disabled list. (Getty Images)

The National League playoff field was set on Monday, but the roles are still fluid.

The Washington Nationals saw their longshot wild-card hopes dashed, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and — wait 20 years for it — the Pittsburgh Pirates all wrapped up playoff berths. The Atlanta Braves are already in as the National League East winners.

In Los Angeles, it’s getting safe to start sizing up first-round matchups.

So today, for your consideration as a first-round opponent, the Reds.

Their number one starter was supposed to be Johnny Cueto. He won 19 games last season. This season he’s been bothered by a lat strain and missed nearly three months with the injury starting in June. The right-hander came back Sept. 16 and made another impressive start yesterday, but the Reds are hesitant to say if and when Cueto would pitch in the postseason.

If it’s not Cueto, expect Mat Latos to take the ball for Cincinnati first. Latos revealed to the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s been pitching with an abdominal strain since June 30. That’s affected his repertoire, which is now quite fastball-heavy, and has resulted in fewer strikeouts.

The Reds haven’t clinched anything more than a playoff berth, so Latos or Cueto could find themselves pitching in the win-or-go-home wild card game. Either way, the Dodgers will likely be seeing one of these guys in Game 1 of their first-round series if they draw the Reds. That’s got to be more favorable than the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Pirates’ Francisco Liriano, or the Braves’ Mike Minor, Julio Teheran or Kris Medlen (all of whom are reportedly under consideration).

For all the Dodgers’ injury woes — Hanley Ramirez, the outfield, the others that haven’t been disclosed — at least Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are pitching like a healthy 1-2 punch.

In that regard, give the advantage to the Dodgers. And knock on wood.

Some bullet points for a Guinea-Bissau Independence Day:
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Vin Scully will open and close the Dodgers’ playoff broadcasts on the radio.

While the national networks handle television duties for the Dodgers’ first-round playoff series, Vin Scully will start — and close — for the Dodgers on the radio.

Scully will call the first three innings and the final three innings of each Dodger postseason game on 570-AM, the Dodgers announced Monday. Charley Steiner and Rick Monday will call the middle three innings.

TBS, and possibly the MLB Network, will televise the Dodgers’ first-round games. All National League Championship Series games will be on TBS while all World Series games will air on Fox, should the Dodgers make it that far. Click here for the complete postseason TV schedule.

The Dodgers’ Spanish-language radio broadcast on Univision America KTNQ 1020 AM will be led by Jaime Jarrín, who is in his 55th season with the Dodgers. Fernando Valenzuela, color commentator for all home games and select road games for the Dodgers’ Spanish radio broadcast, will call all postseason games along with Pepe Yñiguez. Valenzuela has been a part of the Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcast team for 11 seasons and Yñiguez is in his 16th season with the club.

Scully is in his 64th season with the club.

Daily Distractions: The case for Zack Greinke, Game 1 starter.

Clatyon Kershaw Zack Greinke

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are arguably best 1-2 combination in the playoffs, but does it really matter who’s 1 and who’s 2? (Associated Press photo)


The world would not fall off its axis if Zack Greinke started the Dodgers’ playoff opener and Clayton Kershaw started Game 2. It would merely seem that way when you think of all the arguments in favor of Kershaw starting Game 1: Kershaw is going to win the National League Cy Young Award; he leads the world in ERA; he’s been the Dodgers’ best starter all season; he’s Clayton Kershaw for goodness sakes!

I’m not about to invoke a sabermetric-versus-old school angle, so this debate will not gain much traction outside of Los Angeles. But there’s a small case to be made for Greinke.

Here are the two pitchers over their last 15 starts:

IP H R ER BB SO BA OPS ERA
108.2 76 23 20 19 106 .198 .516 1.66
102.2 72 18 18 22 89 .197 .539 1.58

Leave out the wins and losses, and it’s not so easy to guess which stat line belongs to which pitcher. (Kershaw, who is 9-4 in his last 15 starts, owns the first line. Greinke, who is 9-1, owns the second.) The small differences are outweighed by the similarities.

The main reason Greinke isn’t challenging Kershaw for the National League ERA title is because he wasn’t nearly as effective in his first 12 starts of the season. Blame a stop-and-go spring training, blame Carlos Quentin — whatever the reason, Greinke’s early-season numbers have hurt his October credentials.

Greinke pitched only two games in April and three in May because of his run-in with Quentin. That carries another side effect: Greinke has made five fewer starts, and thrown 622 fewer pitches than Kershaw, this season. When choosing between a pair of virtual equals on the mound, shouldn’t that count for something? Say the Dodgers’ first-round series goes to five games. If Kershaw needs to start Game 5, that will be 35th start of the season. If Greinke starts the game, it would be his 30th.

You would still see both pitchers at least once in a best-of-seven NLCS, should the Dodgers get that far. Same for the World Series. So the question of who pitches Game 1 is just as much about who pitches a do-or-die Game 5 in the divisional series. If both pitchers are equally capable, why not choose the arm with less wear and tear?

Think of this like the final laps of a NASCAR race. Your car needs new tires. A caution flag is thrown late in the race. You have the choice of staying out or pulling into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Why not pit?

The question is moot, because there is no debate. The Dodgers have already chosen Kershaw for Game 1 and Greinke for Game 2, a decision that passed without much surprise or second-guessing. The rotation is lined up.

It probably wasn’t a coin flip, but it could have been.

Some bullet points to kick off a National Dog Week:
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Dodgers clinch, then rest. Ethier takes BP, but doesn’t play

SAN DIEGO – Andre Ethier took batting practice before Friday’s game, but his injured left ankle kept him on the bench for the seventh straight game.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hopes to get Ethier some playing time over the final nine regular season games, but he will be prudent in doing so.

“I’d like to see Andre get at-bats again,” Mattingly said. “But not at the price of not being able to run all of a sudden.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the Dodgers regulars sat out Friday’s game against the Padres a day after they clinched the National League West Division.

Expect much of the same over the the final week of the regular season as Mattingly will get Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and others as much rest as possible leading up to the first round of the playoffs.

Even if it comes at the expense of home-field advantage in the National League playoffs.

“We feel like we can win anywhere. We feel like we can win on the road, but we want to be healthy,” Mattingly said. “But I would also like to be at home. I’d much rather be at home and have home-field advantage. But do I want home-field advantage and not have Hanley or Adrian and Hanley in the lineup? No. The priority is I want to try to get these guys as healthy as they can and keep them sharp. If they can play and it’s no risk and that’s the best thing, we’re going to play. We’re going to be more safe than sorry.”

Matt Kemp, though, could see ample time provided his hamstring holds up.

“We’d like to see Matt play most of these games, but not at the risk if his hammy is tight,” Mattingly said. “Matt is in a position that I’d like to see him play more to get more confident in his leg and ankle and get more at-bats.”

Daily Distractions: When baseball imitates reality television (accidentally or otherwise).

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen jumps into the Chase Field pool after Thursday’s win. (Associated Press photo)

Sports is the original reality television. Nothing like a little drama to spice it up, right?

Forget “Poolgate.” Call the controversy over the Dodgers’ postgame celebration “The Real World: Phoenix” (and hope MTV doesn’t keep a copyright attorney on retainer).

Apparently, prior to the series, the Arizona Diamondbacks asked the Dodgers to confine their clinching celebration to the visitors’ clubhouse. They even stationed some security guards on the field Thursday to make sure the Dodgers didn’t do anything crazy:

As it always does, human nature set in. When someone is ordered not to do something, he finds his best way around it. Ever pull into the carpool lane while stuck in traffic and driving alone? Ever sneak a peak at your phone at a red light, look for a cop, then quickly put the phone away? (There was a case of crude rebellion on Project Runway last night. Ah, reality TV — the reality is, I was ironing before you got into the room!)

The Dodgers ran across the field and into the pool.

The incident has spawned some lengthy prose about celebrations and their place in baseball.

Even Arizona senator John McCain chimed in today:

Again, this wasn’t about a celebration.

Hall, now the Diamondbacks’ president, is the Dodgers’ former director of public relations. He may have discretely asked the Dodgers not to go back onto the field to celebrate, but then how did Scully find out and mention this on the broadcast? That got the fans involved, too. Pretty brilliant way to incite a rivalry, accidentally or otherwise.

Seeing the drama go viral, it’s not hard to imagine Hall sipping on some champagne himself this morning.

Some bullet points to get you through the weekend:
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