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SAN DIEGO 5, DODGERS 0

Dodgers can't finish it off

San Diego holds L.A. to one hit and Colorado's victory keeps the NL West title up for grabs.

October 01, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ

SAN DIEGO — The bottles of champagne remained corked when the Dodgers departed from Petco Park on Wednesday night, their 5-0 loss to the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies' 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers keeping their magic number to clinch the National League West at one for the fourth consecutive day.

But no worries.

Champagne can be aged for several decades if stored under proper conditions, evidenced by how one wine critic described the 1928 Dom Perignon as "lively" and "totally fantastic" as recently as three years ago.

"It's delicious," Manager Joe Torre said of cellared champagne.

So, hey, if the Dodgers get swept by the Colorado Rockies this weekend and lose the division crown, there's always next year.

Or, perhaps, they'll open that champagne to drink away the memories of how they've played over the last week and a half to prepare themselves for the postseason.

The Dodgers, who have clinched at least the NL wild card, went into their final off day of the season ending a nightmarish nine-game trip in which they were 3-6 against three teams that were a combined 98 games under .500. They have scored two runs in their last three games. And they lost their last four contests, each of them costing them a chance to win their second consecutive division crown.

They were held to a solitary hit Wednesday, a first-inning single by Matt Kemp. Only three men reached base against left-hander Clayton Richard, who pitched seven innings.

"I sense they're anxious, I sense they want to get this over with," Torre said.

Andre Ethier continued to slump, as he was 0 for 2 to make him one for his last 30.

The way the Dodgers have looked, their best chance to win the division might be today.

The Dodgers aren't playing, but the Rockies are. If the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Rockies today, the Dodgers win the division.

Regardless of what happens, there will be no celebration today.

Saying he would watch the game at his house, Torre added, "I'm not going to invite everybody over to my home."

Rafael Furcal, who had a 12-game hitting streak snapped, said he wouldn't even watch.

"C'mon," he said. "I have kids."

If the Dodgers don't win the division today, they'll have to take one of three games against Colorado in a season-ending series at Dodger Stadium that starts on Friday.

"That's kind of scary," one Dodger admitted.

The Dodgers remain only half a game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies for the best record in the league, for which the prize is home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series.

But Wednesday wasn't an entire waste.

Torre, who said he might have more trouble assembling this team's playoff roster than any of his previous 14, culled some valuable information that could guide his decision-making process.

Jon Garland, who appears to be competing with Chad Billingsley and Vicente Padilla for the fourth and final spot of the Dodgers' postseason rotation, had a brutal night that lasted only 3 1/3 innings. Garland was battered for seven hits and five runs, four of them earned.

"I fell behind a lot of guys," Garland said. "It forced me to throw strikes and I took advantage of it."

Rookie Scott Elbert pitched two shutout innings in relief to extend his scoreless streak to seven appearances and strengthen his bid to be a situational left-hander on the 25-man roster.

Padilla also auditioned as a reliever and delivered two scoreless innings in his first appearance out of the bullpen since 2001.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Playing with matchups

The thought is, eventually the Dodgers will win a game or Colorado will lose one. In which case the Dodgers probably will play Philadelphia or St. Louis in the divisional series. Staff writer Bill Shaikin takes a look at each matchup:

Why the Dodgers would

prefer to play the Phillies:

>>> The Phillies' bullpen is a mess. Brad Lidge leads the league in blown saves, and the team is auditioning closers this week. The Dodgers could use left-handers Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and George Sherrill to neutralize the left-handed Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez.

Why the Dodgers would

prefer not to play the Phillies:

>>> Cole Hamels, who beat the Dodgers twice last October as NLCS MVP, had a 4.87 ERA before the All-Star break, 3.59 since then. Hamels, Lee and J.A. Happ could be the left-handed kryptonite to Andre Ethier, who is batting .191 against left-handers. The Phillies lead the league in home runs.

Why the Dodgers would

prefer to play the Cardinals:

>>> St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin has blown five saves all season -- three in his last seven appearances. The right-handed starting staff would give the Dodgers a better chance to run. Adam Wainwright leads the NL with 19 victories, but the Dodgers have decent success against him.

Why the Dodgers would

prefer not to play the Cardinals:

>>> Chris Carpenter, who would face the Dodgers twice in a five-game series, has beaten them twice this season and is 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA against them in his career. He leads the NL with a 2.30 ERA. The Dodgers lost five of seven games to the Cardinals this year, and they have lost 14 of their last 17 games in St. Louis.

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