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Playoff chase is nothing new for Torre

Playoff chase is nothing new for Torre

Owning a postseason managerial resume unparalleled in baseball history also means this isn't the first tight September stretch for Joe Torre, certainly far from it.

So with the Rockies pulling closer with another run like they had in 2007 en route to the World Series, the Dodgers skipper maintains that famous even-keel approach heading into September, eyes focused ahead on what matters right now.

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Pulse
Dodgers at a glance
2009 record: 95-67
2008 record: 84-78
NL West champs
NL best record
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Buy now

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Loney: Taking good swings
Kuo: Long road back
Thome: Back in Philly
Loney: Building resume
Bullpen: Led by Broxton
Torre: Rep precedes him
Blake: Chemistry guy
Kershaw: Game 1 nod?
Dodgers: Eyes on prize
Kemp: Path of the pros
Furcal: Back healthy
Kershaw: Like Koufax
Hudson: Keeping head up
Billingsley: Unknown role
Ethier: Slump over
Torre: Tough decisions
Kershaw: Elite comparisons
Kemp: Nearly elite
Kershaw: Path to the pros
Billingsley: Fate in balance
Ethier: Aims to improve
Torre: Back to playoffs
Kershaw: Ready to rock
Rotation: Plenty of options
Kemp: Chasing LA history
Bullpen: Dominant pair
Honeycutt: Pitching guru
Kemp: Tools to match talent
Ethier: Walk-off wonder
Billingsley: Vying for spot
Ethier/Kemp: Dynamic duo
Torre: Another pennant race
Pierre: Receives high praise
Kershaw: Beyond his years

"We're focused on winning ballgames," Torre said, entering a big three-game series at rival San Francisco.

Winning hasn't come as readily lately as it did the first half of the season, magnifying Colorado's surge somewhat. But the Dodgers remain in first place in the National League West, where they've been since April 19, the second Sunday of the season, now three games ahead of the Rockies.

The man writing out the Dodgers' lineup card every day has been down this road before, and as long as they avoid some serious bumps he'll be heading for more history in October.

The Dodgers' manager is driving his club toward the postseason again, and if they arrive as expected, he will have matched Bobby Cox's record with 14 consecutive years managing in the playoffs. And with the opportunity afforded by three-tiered postseason play, Torre already has far more playoff victories than anyone with 80, well beyond Cox's 66 in second place.

Torre's just part of an experienced group of managers who could be headed for the postseason in 2009. Based on results through Saturday, the eight managers whose teams are in the playoff picture have a combined 51 postseason appearances, far more than in previous years. For example, the 2008 postseason managers had 36 appearances, and the highest total since three-tiered playoffs began in 1995 was 45 in 2005.

With Torre, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, the Cardinals' Tony La Russa and the Tigers' Jim Leyland leading the way, this group of potential postseason managers also owns 17 league titles (six for Torre), 11 World Series titles (four for Torre) and 11 Manager of the Year awards (two for Torre).

Perhaps Torre, at age 69 and with his Broadway-to-Hollywood success, is the chairman of the board among this experienced crew.

As the 2009 season unfolds its final weeks, Torre's acumen at taking the September road to October will be on display once again.

The Dodgers entered the weekend still in a bit of a rut that's kept them playing close to .500 ball since an MLB-best 56-32 mark at the All-Star break. But the Dodgers are one of only three teams, along with the Angels and Brewers, that have yet to lose more than four games in a row this season. They've already surpassed the victory total from a year ago, so the success story is being written already.

Torre entered the weekend looking for his club to get on track.

"I just want to get where we were before and build on that," Torre said. "It's been frustrating. But I don't think we've changed personality or anything."

That's probably because the manager setting the tone hasn't changed his personality. He has had his challenges, to be sure -- starting with Manny Ramirez's late arrival to Spring Training and his subsequent 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He has juggled Juan Pierre into the outfield mix since Ramirez's return, has worked veterans like Ronnie Belliard into the mix upon their arrival, and has dealt with a rash of injuries to the pitching staff.

In short, just another year on the Torre managerial resume.

Anyone who watched Torre work with and around the circus that is being the manager of the Yankees realizes that Torre's capable of dealing with his new version with the Southern California tan just fine as well.

And it's just as evident that after a first life as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, Torre is in his element leading the Dodgers toward October.

"I'm still working at it, nothing ever gets any easier," Torre said. "It's nice to have had the success when I was in New York. But when I went into that job I had taken a team into the postseason one time with the Braves [1982]. So it tempers you. You remember where you're coming from and don't get caught up in where you're going."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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