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T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers still need two more victories

September 29, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

SAN FRANCISCO -- Baby steps. First, a division title in the worst division, but now can the Dodgers win two playoff games for the first time in 20 years?

They haven't played anyone good in a month. And they will be playing without their opening-day pitcher, as well as maybe their starters at short and second.

So is winning a playoff series too much to ask for a team that finished only six games above .500?

While everyone else is looking for this to be a magical year for the Cubs, magic might very well be what the Dodgers need.

And with it, do they still have what it takes to beat the team with the best record in the National League? Do they have the unflinching wherewithal to knock off everyone else's sentimental favorite? Do they wilt in Wrigley?

"I know this, when I was with the Yankees, the Cubs were the only team in the postseason who could knock us out of prime time," Joe Torre said.

"So we're going to play in prime time and against a team looking to do what the Red Sox did a few years ago."

You want to be the guy to take down such a fan favorite?

"I'd just like to keep their record intact," he said.

SEVEN YEARS ago, Lou Piniella's Mariners won 116 games -- 21 more than Torre's Yankees -- but New York went to Seattle and won the first two games in their playoff matchup.

An angry Piniella, and isn't he always, said after the second loss, "I guarantee you we will be back here for Game 6."

The Mariners went on to lose two of three in New York, the series never returning to Seattle as promised.

So as history goes, we know there's no reason to believe what Piniella says, and matched against a playoff team managed by Torre, uh-oh Cubs fans, Torre has finished on top.

And he's done it twice, compiling an 8-3 record versus Piniella. Uh-oh, Cubs fans.

OBVIOUSLY I'VE been busy getting the Dodgers into the playoffs, so I haven't paid attention to our college football teams.

Took a look Sunday and noticed USC is still very much in the national championship picture. I looked but couldn't find any mention of UCLA -- even in small print, where you would think they'd belong.

NOMAR Garciaparra, who managed the Dodgers on Sunday, put it this way: "Manny Ramirez isn't playing today, so Joe Torre isn't managing today."

I WAS having coffee, and nearby scouts from the Cubs and other teams were talking about the Dodgers. I'd never eavesdrop -- unless I needed one more note for Page 2.

One scout told the Chicago scout to have his team mow the grass as short as possible and harden the ground around home plate with Derek Lowe pitching.

The scout said the Dodgers' infielders lack range, and with Lowe's pitching drawing so many ground balls, it'd be to the Cubs' advantage to speed up the infield.

I mentioned it to Lowe, but he was too sick to care.

"Been sick for three days," he said, giving new meaning to pitching on three days' rest, and hoping for the best.

A FEW more tidbits from the sit-down with Ramirez:

As for the incident that had him knocking down a Red Sox executive, "I was wrong," Ramirez said.

He said the relationship with the executive had been deteriorating for some time, and a day earlier the guy had said some nasty things to Ramirez in front of Ramirez's teammates.

Ramirez went home troubled, returned and asked for a meeting with the executive. "I told him, 'I can't have you disrespecting me in front of my teammates.' "

When he didn't get the response he liked, it escalated into a shove.

"I didn't handle it the right way," he said.

As for the assertion he'll probably have to sign with a team in the American League so he can be used as a DH, he said, "How many times was I the DH in Boston?"

He averaged 12 starts a season as DH the last four years.

As for his future with the Dodgers, "I think I can play four or five more years. And the way the division is, the Dodgers can win it the next four or five years, but they have big decisions to make. It just depends on how badly they want to win."

As for the possibility of beating the Cubs, "Why not?" he said.

TOOK A cab to the park and the driver said he drove someone famous a day earlier and produced a picture of Greg Maddux.

When I paid the fare, he said, "You tipped better than Maddux," and then with a pause, he said, "I guess he doesn't carry his millions around with him."

MARGARET WILLIAMS, teacher, community leader and the longtime true blue fan who has been attending games since Dodger Stadium opened, didn't hear from the Dodgers after a story on her appeared here.

But "The Tonight Show" called and sent an 18-seat limousine for Williams and her friend so they could meet Jay Leno.

It's understandable why the Dodgers didn't show any consideration and put her in a limo for the final home game. It'd have cost them parking revenue.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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