DENVER — Randy Wolf is 33 years old. He is in his 11th major-league season. But he has never pitched in the playoffs.
"It's definitely a huge, gaping hole," Wolf said.
Tonight, the left-hander will take the mound at Coors Field in what is arguably his most important start of the season, as he faces the team closest to the Dodgers in the standings.
Wolf, who is 3-0 with a 1.99 earned-run average over his last three starts, said he doesn't expect to be any more nervous than usual.
"The butterflies, as you get older, get smaller," he said.
He has been in these situations before.
He was on a Philadelphia Phillies team in 2001 that was managed by Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa and finished two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
The 25-year-old Wolf went 5-1 with a 1.58 earned-run average in his last eight starts of that season and beat Greg Maddux of the Braves in the final week to get the Phillies to within a game of first place.
He was also on the 2007 Dodgers, who were in first place at the All-Star break, only to finish fourth. Part of the reason was that Wolf didn't pitch after July 3 and had to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
"I gave up a lot of guaranteed dollars to go to the Dodgers," said Wolf, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. "It was heartbreaking."
Despite his age and history of arm trouble, Wolf doesn't feel like his window to reach the postseason is closing.
"I hate that perception," Wolf said. "It really bothers me. I lost three years to one injury because the MRI didn't detect it."
He was referring to an elbow problem that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2005.
Of the shoulder operation he had two years later, he said, "I think it was a freak thing. It was a shoulder cleanup. There's no reason I can't play until I'm 40."
Mota the workhorse
Almost every day, Guillermo Mota throws a short bullpen session.
"I want to throw a lot," he said.
Mota said that instinct developed the first time he pitched for the Dodgers, under Jim Tracy, the present-day Colorado Rockies manager.
"That's the guy who gave me an opportunity as a setup man," Mota said of Tracy. "As soon as he gave me that role, I went, 'Boom!' I became a big-time setup man."
Mota appeared in 76 games and pitched a career-high 105 innings in 2003.
He pitched 96 2/3 innings between the Dodgers and Florida the next season.
He has pitched in at least 50 games or 50 innings in 10 of his 11 major-league seasons. He has only been on the disabled list twice.
He went into the series in Colorado having pitched 60 innings in 55 games this season, posting a 3.45 ERA.
Mota blamed his slow start this season on his lack of activity.
Pitching only 15 times in the Dodgers' first 42 games, Mota posted an ERA of 9.00. He made 32 appearances in the Dodgers' next 63 games and had an earned-run average of 0.50 over that span.
Chad Billingsley, Charlie Haeger and Clayton Kershaw will start, in that order, in Cincinnati on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. . . . Haeger was available out of the bullpen in long relief. . . . Shortstop Dee Gordon of Class-A Great Lakes was named the prospect of the year in the Midwest League. The son of former major-league pitcher Tom Gordon, Gordon shared the league's most valuable player honors with outfielder Kyle Russell. Gordon, the Dodgers' fourth-round pick in 2008, was batting .306 with 69 steals in 123 games through Monday. Russell, taken in the second round of the same draft, was leading the league with 25 home runs.