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Dodgers' relaxed attitude pays off

Their carefree demeanor in the clubhouse seemingly is leading to victories.

September 13, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ

SAN FRANCISCO — The hours leading up to the game were spent huddled around a couple of television sets in the visiting clubhouse watching college football, one group of Dodgers watching Michigan beat Notre Dame and another watching UCLA's upset of Tennessee.

About the only player who wasn't pointing or saying something to one of the high-definition screens was Manny Ramirez, who walked into the clubhouse, bat in hand, and said to no one in particular, "I don't watch football." Ignored, he walked in silence through his cackling teammates to his locker.

Manager Joe Torre has defended his team's carefree demeanor, saying that the looseness in the clubhouse hasn't resulted in carelessness on the field. And, he said, this team has won when it has had to win.

Like Saturday, when the Dodgers claimed their second consecutive victory over San Francisco, a 9-1 thumping behind a three-run home run by Russell Martin and six solid innings by Vicente Padilla.

The Dodgers not only extended their lead in the National League West over the Colorado Rockies to three games, they reduced their magic number to reach the postseason to 12 with 19 games to play.

Even if the Dodgers are overtaken by Colorado for the division title and are 9-10 the rest of the way, San Francisco or Florida would have to finish on an 18-2 run to deprive them of the wild card.

"Don't even talk about it," Torre said.

"We have a long way to go," said Randy Wolf, who has never pitched in the playoffs in 11 seasons. "One game at a time, guy."

He smirked and added, "I'm going to cliche the hell out of you."

Later, at the other end of the clubhouse, Casey Blake noticed that James Loney was speaking to reporters.

Referring to the two-run home run that Loney hit in the ninth inning, Blake shouted in jest, "James, you hit an insignificant home run. What are they talking to you about?"

"Our magic number," Loney replied.

Blake shook his head.

"It's magic," Loney said. "It's not real. Don't worry about it."

In short, the boys are having fun. So much, perhaps, that they don't seem to have any interest in examining why it is that they can suddenly turn into a dominant team when facing teams such as San Francisco and Colorado that are on their tails.

Asked about that, Torre shook his head for several seconds without saying a word.

"We don't seem intimidated or overwhelmed," he said.

An NL scout in attendance had a more blunt assessment.

"The Dodgers are for real," the scout said. "The Giants are impostors."

That's certainly the way it has looked over the last two games, as the Dodgers have outscored the Giants, 19-4.

Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez gave up five runs (four earned) and five hits over 4 1/3 innings, at one point in the second inning serving up a run-scoring single to Padilla, who ended a 3 1/2 -year stay in the American League last month.

Even Padilla tried his hand at humor.

"The ball was down the middle," Padilla said, smiling. "What was I supposed to do?"

Padilla was charged with only one run, which was unearned. He had men on second and third in the fifth inning, but struck out Eugenio Velez and Edgar Renteria to get out of trouble.

Noting that his team moved to 27 games over .500 to match its season-high, Torre set a new benchmark for his club to reach: 30 games over.

"We have to dangle carrots in front of us," Torre said. "If we win games, nothing can happen to us."


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