Dodgers' starters rested and ready for playoffs
By wrapping up NL West so early, LA had chance to prep rotation for postseason
As if becoming only the fourth team to rally from last place on July 1 or later and advance to the postseason wasn't eye-opening enough, the Los Angeles Dodgers ran away with the National League West, giving them the final days of the regular season to get their starting rotation adjusted for the playoffs.
And it is the rotation that will be key to the Dodgers in October.
St. Louis' rotation has been dominant in September -- going 13-5 with a 2.50 ERA heading into Saturday's action -- but St. Louis didn't clinch the NL Central until Friday, meaning it didn't get a chance to provide extra rest.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, have been juggling their rotation for two weeks.
Clayton Kershaw, who started Friday's 11-0 victory against the Rockies, and Zack Greinke, who was scheduled to start Saturday, each had an extra day of rest prior to their final outing of the regular season. They both also will have a fifth day off before making their NL Division Series debuts -- Kershaw in Game 1 on Thursday and Greinke is Game 2 on Friday. Kershaw also had an extra three days off prior to his penultimate start of the regular season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu will work on normal rest in the season finale on Sunday, but he will then have six days off before Game 3, which will be at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 6.
Kershaw was 2-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his past four starts, working 13 shutout innings in the final two. Greinke went into Saturday with a 7-0 record and 1.49 ERA his previous 10 starts. Ryu goes into Sunday at 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA his past four starts, and he has allowed three runs in 15 innings the past two.
The Dodgers, who have the third best record among NL division champions, know they will open on the road, but they don't know if they'll begin in Atlanta or St. Louis.
Kershaw has been solid on the road (8-3, 2.14 ERA), but he did not pitch against Atlanta this season, and he was 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA against St. Louis. Greinke was 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA on the road. He won his one start each against Atlanta and St. Louis, working seven shutout innings against the Braves.
Ryu will make his postseason debut at Dodger Stadium, where he has gone 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA in his rookie season.
The Dodgers joined the 1914 Boston Braves, '73 New York Mets and '95 Seattle Mariners as teams to rally from being in last place July 1 or later to finish in first place.
Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer is making a strong push to win the NL batting title. He went into Saturday having hit .397 in September, and with a league-leading .333 season average that is nine points ahead of Atlanta's Chris Johnson of Atlanta, who ranks second. Cuddyer will be 34 years, six months and two days old Sunday.
Only five players older than Cuddyer have won the NL batting title since division play began in 1969. Barry Bonds did it twice, including in 2004, at the age of 39 years, two months and nine days, and Tony Gwynn three times, including 1997, at the age of 37 years, four months and 19 days. Others who were older include Chipper Jones in 2008 (36 years, five months and four days), Al Oliver in 1983 (35 years, 11 months and 19 days), and Larry Walker in 2001 (34 years, 10 months and seven days).
There are five managers at the end of their guaranteed deals, including Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who does have an option for 2014, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Both are more focused on managing in the postseason than their contract situations.
And then there are Ned Yost in Kansas City, Ron Gardenhire in Minnesota and Joe Girardi with the Yankees, whose long-term ties to the Cubs and Chicago have created speculation he could be of interest to the Cubs.
Already settled are the futures of Ryne Sanderg, who signed a three-year deal with the Phillies, and Terry Collins, who will receive a two-year extension from the Mets, according to reports that surfaced Saturday. Rockies owner Dick Monfort said he wants manager Walt Weiss back, and Weiss said he wants to return. Nationals manager Davey Johnson made it clear before the season that he would retire after this year, and Seattle manager Eric Wedge announced Friday that he won't be back in 2014.
• There have been 240 extra-inning games this season, three more than the previous Major League record, set in 2011. Arizona leads the majors with 25 (17-8) and has played a record 81 total extra innings -- 11 more the previous record set by the 1969 Minnesota Twins.
• The Cardinals are the fifth Major League franchise with at least 30 90-win seasons since 1900. The Yankees have had 60, followed by the Giants (42) and Dodgers (34), and tied with the A's.
• The Padres' more hitter-friendly realignment of Petco Park resulted in 146 home runs this year, second most in the nine-year existence of the park. There were 157 home runs in 2006. The Padres hit 66 homers this season, 19 more than a year ago, and Will Venable hit 15 of his 22 home runs at home
Out of left field
Pittsburgh's PNC Park will host the first postseason game in its 13-year history on Tuesday, becoming the 67th ballpark in history to field a playoff game, and the fourth in Pittsburgh, according to stats guru Bill Arold.
The Pirates hosted their first four postseason games at Exposition Park during the 1903 World Series. They played 13 playoff games from 1909-60 at Forbes Field, and 26 games at Three Rivers Stadium. The original Yankee Stadium holds the record with 161 postseason games, including 100 World Series games.
Among current facilities, Fenway Park is the leader with 68 postseason games, followed by Dodger Stadium (55), the O.co Coliseum (54), Turner Field (36) and Progressive Field (34), each of which could add to their totals this season. The Red Sox, Dodgers, A's and Braves won division titles, and the Indians are battling Tampa Bay and Texas to host the American League Wild Card Game.