Dodgers hit road with clinching in mind

Dodgers hit road with clinching in mind

LOS ANGELES -- In taking two of three games from the Giants at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers put to rest any miniscule doubt about if they would make the playoffs. Now the question simply is just when they will clinch a spot.

The magic number for the Dodgers is four, and any combination of Dodgers wins and Giants losses totaling four clinches Los Angeles a spot in the postseason.

The Dodgers lead the Rockies by five games in the National League West with 12 games left on the schedule.

And with the Dodgers set to embark on a nine-game road trip with series at Washington, Pittsburgh and San Diego, it shouldn't be long before the Dodgers start popping champagne.

"We can't expect anybody to do anything for us, we've got to go out there and do this ourselves," manager Joe Torre said. "There are a lot of managers in the Major Leagues that would love to control their own destiny -- it's a nice situation for us."

The situation is about to get nicer considering their next three series are against two last-place teams and the fourth place team in the NL West.

Though Andre Ethier conceded that the Dodgers should clinch a playoff spot during the road trip, he said they can't sleep on the Nationals and Pirates.

"Washington, they've been playing well the second half -- they're going to come at us and do what they can," he said. "Pittsburgh, of course, we got them here at home three games in a row and they're probably going to want to turn the table over there."

"... It's always tough going on these East Coast swings, especially late in the season, guys getting tired. So we'll see if we can combat it and come away with a couple of wins."

If the Dodgers do as expected and take care of business on their road trip, chances are they will have clinched a spot in the postseason and a division championship before returning to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series against the Rockies to end the season.

Torre was asked Saturday if he thinks the team would celebrate both achievements or just wait until it clinched the NL West.

"Good question. I don't know the answer," Torre said.

Torre said he remembers one of his Yankees teams being in a similar situation when it clinched a playoff berth before it won the division. That team waited for the division crown to celebrate.

And judging from some of starter Randy Wolf's quotes from after the Dodgers' 6-2 win Sunday, the Dodgers probably will do the same.

"Our goal is to win the division," Wolf said. "If we keep on winning each series, it will take care of ourselves and we'll see ourselves in October."

"... We want to get there but I think we have bigger goals in mind."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 3.86 ERA)
Kuroda has looked like his old self in his three starts back from a mild concussion. Against the Pirates, Kuroda allowed only one run on six hits in six innings. The right-hander relied heavily on his fastball against the Pirates but kept the ball down and struck out seven. That start followed up an eight-inning gem in San Francisco in which he allowed only two runs on three hits. With those outings, Kuroda is re-establishing his place in the pecking order of the Dodgers' starting rotation. This will be Kuroda's first career start against the Nationals.

WSH: RHP Livan Hernandez (8-11, 5.22 ERA)
Hernandez continues to show that he wants to play for the Nationals next year. He already has four quality starts. In his last outing, Hernandez gave up two runs in six innings against the Phillies on Wednesday.

Tidbits
The Dodgers improved to 30 games over .500 for the first time since Oct. 2, 1985, when the club was 94-64. ... The Dodgers now have slugged at least one home run in 10 straight game. The streak is the club's longest of the season and its longest stretch since another 10-game run from Aug. 23-Sept. 3, 2006. ... With his two-run homer in the second inning Sunday, Ethier became the first Dodgers player to reach the 100 RBI plateau since J.D. Drew's 100 RBI season in 2006. Ethier also is the first Dodgers player to hit 30 home runs and have 100 RBI in a season since Adrian Beltre (48 homers, 121 RBIs) in 2004.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• KCAL

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 12-10, 4.05) at Nationals (Ross Detwiler, 0-6, 5.80), 4:05 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Dodgers (Vicente Padilla, 11-6, 4.52) at Nationals (J.D. Martin, 5-4, 4.21), 4:05 p.m. PT
• Friday: Dodgers (Jon Garland, 11-11, 4.02) at Pirates (TBD), 4:05 p.m. PT

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.