Dodgers sweep, look ahead to Mets

Dodgers sweep, look ahead to Mets

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers found a way to finish in first without winning a title, no easy trick.

Nor is ending the regular season with a seven-game win streak that they believe is a better indicator of postseason worthiness than the label of Wild Card.

"We got ourselves into a situation where we had to play like it was a playoff atmosphere the last 30 days," manager Grady Little said after the Dodgers swept the Giants with a 4-3 win Sunday, only to miss out on the title when San Diego held on to beat Arizona. "That experience is helpful through the postseason. I take the fact that we're playing well ahead of who we play."

The Dodgers and Padres finished tied at 88-74, but because both clubs were assured of advancing to the postseason, the National League West title was decided by a head-to-head series tiebreaker (San Diego dominated, 13-5) instead of a playoff elimination game.

"We did everything we could do except beat the Padres," said general manager Ned Colletti.

The Dodgers flew home after the game and will travel to New York on Monday, with a workout Tuesday and Game 1 on Wednesday, when they will send Derek Lowe to the mound. Rookie Hong-Chih Kuo, who beat the Mets at Shea Stadium in his first Major League start last month, is tentatively set to start Game 2. Greg Maddux will pitch Game 3 in Los Angeles.

Brad Penny, a World Series hero for Florida as a starter, is expected to be used out of the bullpen initially. If his back is sound enough, he might start a Game 4 or 5. Penny said his back felt surprisingly good the day after a full bullpen session Saturday.

The Dodgers plan on reducing their pitching staff to 10 for the series with the Mets. Sunday starter Eric Stults, Giovanni Carrara and Tim Hamulack were told Sunday they would not be active. Still on the bubble are Aaron Sele and Elmer Dessens.

Oscar Robles, Matt Kemp and Delwyn Young also were told they would not be on the roster, leaving Einar Diaz the only position player in limbo, although it might take an injury for him to be activated. Little indicated the remaining 28 would probably go to New York, with the final roster submitted Wednesday in case there are injuries between now and then.

The Dodgers were 3-4 against the Mets this year, winning one of three in Los Angeles in June, then splitting a four-game series in Shea Stadium last month. They finished 13-6 against the Giants and were 43-31 against the NL West.

Little sent out a shell of a lineup for this game, with Stults making his second Major League start and backups playing seven of eight defensive positions so the regulars could rest up for what's next. Stults allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings and had a no-decision.

The victory could be read as an indicator of roster depth, as Ramon Martinez doubled in two runs in the sixth inning to tie the game and Julio Lugo's RBI single made a winner out of reliever Chad Billingsley, who will work out of the bullpen in the playoffs, even though he has only two relief appearances since his June promotion from Triple-A.

"We know what we're going to get from him," Little said of Billingsley. "When his control is off, he has stuff that ends up getting zeros."

Martinez rejoined the club Wednesday in Colorado after missing a week of games while in Puerto Rico for the birth of his son.

James Loney, who had nine RBIs Thursday and was benched Friday, slugged a home run, his fourth of the year and third in his last six at-bats, which won't hurt his cause when the brain trust finalizes the 25-man roster. With veteran first baseman Nomar Garciaparra on thin physical ice because of three injuries, Loney could find his way onto that roster.

"I don't think about things I can't control," Loney said about a roster spot. "All I can do is do it on the field."

The Dodgers also got a pair of hits from backup catcher Toby Hall. In addition to Billingsley's winning inning, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson and Joe Beimel tuned up for the playoffs with a scoreless inning each. Beimel was credited with his second save of the season.

Sunday's game might have marked the Giants farewell of Barry Bonds, Moises Alou and his father, manager Felipe Alou. In his final at-bat in this game, Bonds doubled off Billingsley and Giants fans demanded a curtain call.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.