Daily Distractions: The National League’s best record is within the Dodgers’ reach.

Brian Wilson

The Dodgers are two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s best record. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

While I spent the weekend at a wedding in which two bridesmaids went chasing after a tossed bouquet like a a couple of defensive linemen going after a fumbled football (congrats Darryl and Amanda!), the Dodgers spent the weekend looking ahead to October.

How else to view the Michael Young trade, with the Phillies unloading their primary third baseman to a Dodgers team that might or might not use him extensively off the bench?

Looking ahead in a way the Dodgers won’t publicly, the best record in the National League is within their reach the next three days in Denver. If the Dodgers sweep the Colorado Rockies, and the New York Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta (stranger things have happened; the Metropolitans are 4-3 in Atlanta this year), the best record in the National League belongs to the Dodgers. Atlanta is currently two games ahead of the Dodgers, 83-53 compared to 81-55.

The National League team with the best record on October 1 will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason until the World Series, thanks to the American League’s All-Star game victory. All those Dodger wins in July and August that had us reaching for the record books, searching for the best 40- and 50-game stretches in baseball history, might actually mean something after all.

So far as we can tell, the last time the Dodgers held the NL’s best record outright as late as Sept. 4 was in 1978.

And so the journey into scarcely charted territory continues.

More bullet points for Labor Day:
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Hanley Ramirez will avoid disabled list for now after encouraging MRI result.

Hanley Ramirez

An MRI on the left hamstring of Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez Monday revealed no further damage. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

Two days, Hanley Ramirez says. That’s all he needs.

“We’re learning not to listen to Hanley,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said to a cackling crowd of reporters. “We’re going to listen to medical on this.”

It wasn’t “two days,” but the Dodgers’ medical staff had some good news for Ramirez Monday. An MRI on his strained left hamstring revealed no further damage, and he may be able to miss the disabled list altogether.
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Zack Greinke will start for the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Zack GreinkeThe Dodgers will activate Zack Greinke from the disabled list, and the right-hander will start tomorrow’s game against the Washington Nationals less than five weeks after he had a metal plate inserted in his fractured left clavicle.

Greinke made only one rehab start last Friday and threw 80 pitches for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. The outing didn’t go well on paper — he allowed six hits, three earned runs and lasted just 4 1/3 innings — but Greinke said he’s comfortable pitching a major-league game three weeks ahead of the original timetable. The team’s medical staff concurred.

“There is some risk,” Greinke said. “There’s risk starting [Clayton] Kershaw today. I’m sure on our team there’s a lot of risk every day. I think it’s well worth the risk we’re taking for my situation.

“If our medical people thought I shouldn’t be pitching, I’d be OK with it. If I had a problem with how I’m pitching I’d be in the minor leagues.”
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Mattingly upset with Lilly for not informing team of back pain

Ted Lilly’s most glaring fault Monday night wasn’t getting shelled for three innings before having to exit a 12-2 loss to the Rockies with back pain. It was the silence the Dodgers starter maintained about tightness in his back since making his first start of the season five days earlier.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was none too pleased to discover after the series opener against the Rockies that Lilly, who began the season one the disabled list due to left shoulder labrum surgery, hadn’t informed the Dodgers training staff of his ailment following a five-inning outing against the Mets a week ago in which he only allowed one run.

“He can’t just keep that to himself,” Mattingly said. “Then at least we know going in to the game that we possibly should have a guy that can go four or five innings, instead of having to use the whole group.”

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Hanley Ramirez activated from the disabled list, Clayton Kershaw placed on the bereavement list.

Hanley Ramirez

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez might play his first regular-season game of 2013 tonight against the Colorado Rockies. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers placed pitcher Clayton Kershaw on the bereavement list and reinstated Hanley Ramirez from the disabled list prior to Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

Ramirez was expected to be activated at some point during the Dodgers’ three-game series against the Rockies when he showed up at Dodger Stadium Monday. He pronounced himself fit to play before heading off to field ground balls and take a round of batting practice, a normal pregame routine.

Kershaw left immediately after Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers and did not take questions from reporters.

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Suddenly, the Dodgers are out of long relievers.

Matt Guerrier

Matt Guerrier allowed two home runs in relief of Matt Magill on Saturday night, further depleting a short-handed Dodgers bullpen. (Associated Press photo)

For all the money the Dodgers have spent building their 2013 roster — about $230 million when the regular season began — they didn’t have a single pitcher available if last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers had gone to the 12th inning.

That’s not exactly unusual. If taxed enough, any bullpen will run out of arms. The Dodgers didn’t even get to the 10th inning yesterday, but manager Don Mattingly had to line up his possibilities when the Dodgers had runners on second and third base with two outs in the ninth inning.

“I’ve got to bring Josh (Wall) back out” for the 10th inning, Mattingly said. “I’ve got one (inning) with Kenley (Jansen). Then it’s Schu.”

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Dodgers demote Matt Palmer, Steven Ames, Matt Magill.

Matt Palmer

Matt Palmer will have surgery tomorrow in Arizona to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The team originally announced that he would miss six to eight weeks, but Palmer gave a more optimistic, more detailed timetable Monday.

“They say I can throw in two weeks, throw off a mound in three-and-a-half to four,” he said. “I could be back (in a game) by six weeks.”

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If Dodgers pitcher Matt Magill had butterflies in his stomach Saturday, they didn’t show.

Matt Magill had never pitched in a spring training game before Saturday, but you wouldn’t have known that by the results: Matt Magill headHe and non-roster invitee Mark Lowe were the only two pitchers that didn’t allow a run in the Dodgers’ 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Magill entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning. He quickly surrendered an infield single when shortstop Dee Gordon couldn’t pick a hard grounder off his backhand, allowing a run to score (it was charged to Kelvin De La Cruz). Magill then struck out the next three batters he faced and induced a fly ball to end the eighth inning — the only 1-2-3 inning defensively for the Dodgers.

That doesn’t always mean much in spring training, but it was a good sign that Magill was calm. For the 23-year-old from Simi Valley, that was one of two keys.

“Just go out and work on my fastball command,” he said, “and work on not getting too hyped up for the first big-league experience.”

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Dodgers spring training preview: Starting pitchers.

Hyun-Jin RyuForget having the best 1-2 starting combination in baseball. Ned Colletti clearly intended to put together the majors’ best 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 staff this winter.

Mission accomplished.

When the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday, they present a puzzling situation that only time can solve. Chad Billingsley hopes time can heal the torn ligament in his elbow, not season-ending Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly hopes he can pitch like a legitimate fifth starter, having not pitched in the majors since last May because of injuries. He, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang may have to hope that Colletti can find a desirable destination for their talents outside of L.A.

If healthy, it’s hard to imagine this group staying together. Otherwise, the Dodgers are left with the first eight-man rotation in major-league history, and wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome to what promises to be an interesting camp.

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