Notes: Dodgers gear up at home

Dodgers notes: Team gears up at home

LOS ANGELES -- With a two-game lead in the National League West upon their return home, the Dodgers found themselves in the middle of what looks to be a month-long playoff race.

"[The division is] still pretty tight, and there are a lot of things that can still happen in 32 games," Grady Little said.

As Little said, it's not a much different race than the one the Dodgers were in during the last homestand. Los Angeles finished that home stretch with a half-game lead.

A 10-day road trip followed, and the Dodgers finished 4-5. Despite back-to-back wins to finish the trip, Los Angeles still made changes back at Chavez Ravine in search of the winning formula against the Wild Card-leading Reds.

On Monday night, that meant giving J.D. Drew and Wilson Betemit the night off against lefty Chris Michalak. Jason Repko started in right, and Julio Lugo made the start at third base. He was also placed third in the lineup, the eighth time he'd been in that spot.

"We're trying to create as much as we can at the top of the lineup," Little said, later adding that he liked the speed at the top of the order.

Part of the winning formula also included having Dodgers ace Brad Penny back on the mound after his ejection on August 23 at San Diego. Penny was thrown out of the game after four innings for arguing with home plate umpire Rick Reed.

When asked how he felt about having a volatile pitcher on the mound, Little said he was not concerned.

"I'd rather have a player like that, with a temper you try to control a bit, rather than one with no emotion," Little said.

Of course, there are other reasons the club is not concerned about Penny's demeanor on the mound: The right-hander is 7-3 with a 3.61 ERA at home. Penny is among the National League leaders in wins, and the 2006 All-Star starter is one of the reasons the Dodgers' postseason hopes are alive and healthy this year.

Sad Sammy: With the Little League World Series Championship on Monday afternoon, many eyes were focused on the televisions in the Dodgers clubhouse and trainer's room. Following Japan's 2-1 loss to the U.S. team from Georgia, Takashi Saito walked through the clubhouse pretending to wipe away tears from his eyes.

"Don't cry," he said jokingly. "Good game, good game."

Injury update: Derek Lowe continued to feel soreness at the base of his left thumb, though he still threw on Monday. The right hander, who was hit by a line drive in Arizona, is still on track to pitch Friday night in the series opener against Colorado.

Here and there: On Tuesday, Nomar Garciaparra and Drew will visit youth in the pediatric unit at White Memorial Medical Center. The center's pediatric playroom is named after the Dodgers. ... Little has yet to find out how much he will be fined for his ejection on Wednesday night in a loss to San Diego. ... The Dodgers are 18-7 this August, two wins shy of the club-record 20 wins in that month. They have three games left to play in August. The team is also 19 victories away from hitting 87 wins -- a mark that Little set as a satisfying minimum earlier in the summer. ... The Dodgers remembered the 40-year anniversary of a Beatles concert at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Songs played during the game came from Beatles selections.

Down on the farm: Matt Kemp and Andy LaRoche had solid games on Sunday with Triple-A Las Vegas despite the 51s' extra-inning loss. Kemp was 4-for-5 with two RBIs and one run, while LaRoche went 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs. Las Vegas lost, 9-7, to Colorado Springs.

Up next: Lefties Mark Hendrickson (5-4, 4.19 ERA) and Eric Milton (8-7, 5.22 ERA) take the mound for the Dodgers and Reds, respectively, in a 7:10 p.m. game on Tuesday.

Elizabeth Aguilar is an associate reporter with This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.