"I guarantee this probably means more to me than to anybody on this team," reliever Jamey Wright said of the current stretch run for the Dodgers. "The time is now. I've had too many dreams of pitching in the playoffs for it not to happen. I'm pretty confident it will."
The 37-year-old Wright made this Dodgers club on a Minor League contract, management expecting him to be the long man for blowouts, to take over for an injured starter and to be a seasoned mentor to an otherwise-young bullpen.
But Saturday night he was setting up interim closer Brandon League with a perfect eighth inning, following up two perfect innings in his previous outing in Colorado. Nine up, nine down.
"When the game is on the line, I seem to pitch my best," he said. "You can't be afraid to lose. I've been a hero, I've been a goat plenty of times. But I'm going to compete, to give my best and if I'm not good enough, the scoreboard will show it."
While the Dodgers as a group have struggled for an identity after a radical roster makeover, Wright is in his best form of the season.
"We've added a lot of pieces and we're trying to jell, to get an identity," he said. "We've scuffled, had some tough games. You hope the talent takes over and we can go on a run."
The closest Wright got to a postseason was in 2002, when he was traded at the end of August from Milwaukee to the Cardinals after injuries to starting pitchers Matt Morris and Woody Williams. Wright went 2-0 in September, but when Morris and Williams returned, Wright was left off the playoff roster. He accompanied the team, but it wasn't the same.
"It was bittersweet," he said. "I wouldn't consider it going to the playoffs. I couldn't go in the dugout or the bullpen. I just worked out in case somebody got hurt. It doesn't count."
With injuries to Kenley Jansen and Scott Elbert, Wright has worked his way toward the back end of the game.
"The way we're using him is out of necessity, but he's earned more and more later innings," said manager Don Mattingly. "You've got a guy with a lot of experience and he's not afraid. We have to find somebody for the later innings and he's been pretty good."