Will Ricky Nolasco or Zack Greinke start Game 4 of NLCS? Check back after Game 3.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco went 0-2 with a 12.75 ERA in his final three regular-season starts. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly conceded Monday that the outcome of Game 3 tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals will influence his choice of a starting pitcher for Game 4.

Ricky Nolasco, the scheduled starter, said he hasn’t been told that anyone is taking place. But Mattingly’s concession was the first time the manager has publicly acknowledged the possibility of Game 1 starter Zack Greinke pitching on three days’ rest.

“Ricky is ready to go,” Mattingly said. “I’ll probably be able to tell you a lot more after the game. I would say, yes, today’s results may have something to do — but like I said, Ricky is ready to go right now.”
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Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3, Ricky Nolasco Game 4 of NLCS.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 and Ricky Nolasco Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in Los Angeles.

That puts perhaps the greatest pressure on Ryu, who must oppose Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright when the Dodgers return home Monday. Wainwright has pitched in 15 postseason games in his career, starting six and recording four saves. In starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA. He pitched a complete game and allowed one run Wednesday in the Cardinals’ series-clinching win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Clayton Kershaw to start Game 4 of NLDS for Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 Atlanta Braves batters in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday. He is starting Game 4 tonight on three days’ rest. (Getty Images)

The decision was announced to the media without much fanfare, in a one-sentence email just after noon Monday: “Dodger left-hander Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will start tonight’s game.”

The implications were bigger than the email indicated.

The Dodgers are sending their ace to the mound on three days’ rest rather than Ricky Nolasco, who had struggled in his final three regular-season starts. The team insisted all week that Nolasco would start the game opposite Atlanta Braves right-hander Freddy Garcia. Manager Don Mattingly offered only the slightest hint of hesitation before Game 3 on Sunday.

“Right now Ricky’s the pitcher in Game 4,” Mattingly said. “That’s what we’ve decided.”

Something changed overnight.
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Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3, Ricky Nolasco Game 4 for Dodgers in National League Division Series.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco will start Game 4 of the National League Division series for the Dodgers. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 and Ricky Nolasco an if-necessary Game 4, when their National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves shifts back to Los Angeles.

Ryu was a virtual lock to start Sunday’s Game 3 after he went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts, finishing second only to Clayton Kershaw on the team in starts and innings pitched (192). The left-hander faced Altanta twice during the regular season and allowed three runs, striking out 11 batters in 12 ⅔ innings.
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San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
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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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Dodgers clinch National League West title and first playoff berth since 2009, beating Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6.

It’s been expected since Day 1. Even more since Sept. 1.

Now it’s official: The Dodgers are going to the playoffs.

A.J. Ellis broke a 6-6 tie with a solo home run off Josh Collmenter in the eighth inning, lifting the Dodgers to a heavily anticipated win over the Arizona Diamondbacks to clinch the National League West title.

See the game-winning home run for yourself:

It’s the Dodgers’ first playoff berth since 2009, when they won 95 games and the division before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
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Sizing up the Dodgers’ September (and early October) starting rotation. Update.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will make his next start Saturday in San Diego. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Clayton Kershaw will start Saturday in San Diego and Stephen Fife will start Wednesday in Phoenix, a decision first reported here and since reflected on the Dodgers’ home page.

That presents one short-term question for the Dodgers’ rotation and many more for the next two weeks, including the playoffs.

Friday’s starter still isn’t listed on the Dodgers’ home page, but the process of elimination makes Edinson Volquez the logical choice. Volquez pitched Sunday in Los Angeles and would be starting on normal rest Friday. Five other starters (Hyun-Jin Ryu on Monday, Zack Greinke today, Fife on Wednesday, Ricky Nolasco on Thursday and Kershaw on Saturday) are all accounted for this week, so Volquez figures to be the man on Friday if he’s healthy. It would be his second appearance against the Padres since they cut him in August.

Determining the Dodgers’ rotation over their final seven regular-season games beginning Sunday is another puzzle, one that’s complicated by the decision to push back Kershaw’s next start.
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Daily Distractions: Brian Wilson says he doesn’t pitch with emotion.

Brian WilsonBrian Wilson was calmly packing up for the Dodgers’ road trip to Arizona after another loss to the San Francisco Giants, wearing a black sport coat, a pink T-shirt underneath and a rastafarian hat. Just another day at the office.

Wilson faced two batters in the seventh inning of a tie game Sunday and retired both. This has become Wilson’s new normal: pitching in high-leverage situations in every inning except the ninth. Eight of his last nine appearances have come in 0-, 1-, 2- or 3-run games. None have been in the ninth inning.

And Wilson is thriving. He’s allowed one run in 12 appearances (the lone run he allowed got him stuck with the loss in Cincinnati on Sept. 7).

“I didn’t start off pitching the ninth inning in my career,” Wilson said. “As long as I’m out there competing, I think every inning’s just as important.”

But is the adrenaline the same?

“I don’t pitch off adrenaline,” he said. “I don’t pitch with emotion. I’ve been playing this game for a while now, and I pitch to my strengths. There are some situations that dictate higher levels of energy, but sometimes it can get a little out of control if you don’t use it the right way.”

So there you have it. One of the most demonstrative, colorful players in baseball doesn’t pitch with emotion.

I suppose you never know until you ask.

Some bullet points for a Mexican Independence Day:
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