PHOENIX -- A few years back I referred to them as the Choking Dogs, and here we are again, the Dodgers the likely choice now to win the division, as long as they don't gag.
They not only beat Arizona on Sunday, they ripped the heart out of the Diamondbacks and their closer, Brandon Lyon, the hometown fans booing him off the field after he wasted a brilliant performance by starter Brandon Webb.
A day after Matt Kemp failed to keep a ninth-inning rally going against a struggling Lyon, he returned to give the Dodgers a grown-up, big-time major league at-bat with the game on the line, this time hitting a double to tie it.
"He seemed very calm up there," Manager Joe Torre said, while obviously thrilled at the lesson learned from the previous game -- Kemp flying out on Lyon's first pitch.
This time Kemp stood in there for eight pitches, 106 strikeouts already on his resume, but intent on not doing too much, he said, then doing everything to take the steam out of the Diamondbacks.
"That was a huge win," Torre. "It was nice to be able to steal that one."
At the same time it reminded the Diamondbacks they don't have a chance of hanging in this race with the collection of batting practice pitchers they have in their bullpen. If there's a trade to be made, Arizona better make it, or call it a season.
The Diamondbacks have an offense no better than the Dodgers, their only chance for success resting with Webb and Dan Haren.
But unless Webb and Haren can come in to relieve for each other, the Diamondbacks are cooked.
The Dodgers meanwhile move on to Colorado, which is suddenly playing better, flush with success after getting key hits from Nomar Garciaparra, James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Kemp, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin in the ninth inning to score five runs.
In their previous nine games, the Dodgers scored five runs or more only twice -- and they did it in one inning against Arizona with Andruw Jones in the middle of the rally.
Jones hit a ground ball that might have been turned for a double play -- hey, he didn't strike out. Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew bobbled the ball, and so was able to get only Jones at first.
"Lucky for us," Torre said. "Luck, I'll take it."
A year ago the Dodgers were 12 games over .500, while this group sits 48-50. But the Dodgers of a year ago went on to lose the next 12 of 14 before completely unraveling, young and old players finding no common ground in the clubhouse.
The trading deadline still looms, and the Dodgers have way too many scrubs on their roster to get too full of themselves.
But killing off the Diamondbacks, while at the same time getting a boost from some players off the disabled list, probably is enough to put the Dodgers into the playoffs, unless the Choking Dogs blow it.
IT PROBABLY wasn't a good sign the other night for Luis Maza or Angel Berroa when Torre sent in pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo to pinch-hit to lead off the seventh inning, the Dodgers down by a run and Maza, Berroa and LaRoche still available to hit.
Torre later explained he had only one pinch-hitter left on his bench, LaRoche.
When asked what about Maza and Berroa, he said he had only one pinch-hitter left. Ouch.
That might explain why Maza was asked to pack his bags and leave before Sunday's game. Here's hoping Berroa didn't sign any long-term apartment lease.
CHECKED WITH Jones the other day and he said he had no idea how much weight he has lost. Torre checked, and said Jones had lost "16 to 17 pounds, putting him at 229."
He keeps this up, and while I don't know how he'll look after losing 65 more pounds, at least he'll be hitting his weight.
NO SIGN of GM Ned Colletti. You don't think the Dodgers traded him, do you, for a GM to be named later?
KIDDY UP is back, the high-priced acquisition recovering from surgery, who for a while there was beginning to remind folks of Jason Schmidt.
The Los Alamitos quarter horse won $50,000 a year ago, and Ed Allred, who owns 99% of the horse, elected to donate the winnings to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA without ever consulting with Page 2, who owns the most important part of the horse -- the nose.
Big things were expected from Kiddy Up, but he got hurt, returning recently to finish second, and once again raised expectations. If Kiddy Up wins another $50,000, Allred says he will give it to the kids on the cancer ward at Mattel. He sure is free with my money.
It's now up to trainer Scott Willoughby to have Kiddy Up ready for the Golden State Derby trials at Los Alamitos on Aug. 16. If Kiddy Up fails to qualify for the Derby, it's Willoughby's fault.
"He could come apart at any time," Willoughby said, and we probably should have named the horse after Schmidt.
WHY DO TV broadcasters treat golf as if it's a visit to the Sistine Chapel?
A few holes to play, Ian Poulter has about a 10-foot putt in the British Open, and I think it was ABC's Tom Watson who said, "This is the biggest putt of his life."