But to even play in October, the Dodgers need to beat the Phillies this week -- which they did, 15-9 -- just as much as they need to beat the Giants, as both clubs lead Los Angeles in the National League Wild Card race, which seems to be the only race the Dodgers are in currently.
In their first game at Citizens Bank Park since getting eliminated by the Phillies in last year's NL Championship Series, the Dodgers set a season high for runs scored, outlasting the Phillies despite a five-inning start from Vicente Padilla and five runs scored off their bullpen. The Dodgers are again third in the NL West.
They went 0-5 here in the last two LCS, but they didn't have Jay Gibbons for those series. While Andre Ethier reached base a career-high six times -- four hits, a walk and hit batsman -- with three RBIs and four runs, and Casey Blake homered with four RBIs, Gibbons added three RBIs, and who could have imagined?
Gibbons slugged his first homer in three years starting in left field, as Manny Ramirez is still on the disabled list. Called up Sunday, Gibbons is batting .800 (4-for-5) with more homers and RBIs than Ramirez has in the past six weeks.
What was he thinking on his home run trot? "I can't remember," Gibbons said. "I was in a fog."
Gibbons said he's treating every day like his last and trying to enjoy it, having resuscitated a career that once saw him have seasons with 28, 26 and 23 home runs. But in 2007, he tore the labrum in his shoulder, hit .230, then was named in the Mitchell Report for steroid use. He said he doesn't think he was blackballed.
"I don't think so," he said. "If I had played better [in 2007], I believe I would have had a job."
Whatever the reason, Gibbons went begging for Major League work, played one season in independent ball and retired with a gig lined up to coach at Moorpark High School this year when the Dodgers gave him a Minor League job, without a Major League spring invite. Gibbons was tearing up the Pacific Coast League (.347-19-83) when the Dodgers promoted him to replace Garret Anderson as a left-handed bat off the bench.
"Who said I didn't get bitter?" he said. "I really think having kids [18-month-old twin boys and a 7-month-old daughter] helped me a lot, it changed my perspective, took my mind off baseball. It used to consume me; it's part of life now. There was a time when I wondered why. Right now, it doesn't matter."
Gibbons went 3-for-4 against the Phillies, and he wasn't the only newcomer on fire. Scott Podsednik and Ryan Theriot set the table, Podsednik with two hits and two runs, Theriot with three hits, three runs, an RBI and a steal.
"Like I've said, the more times me and Theriot are on base, the better our offense will be," Podsednik said. "Those doubles by Ethier would just be doubles unless we're on base. If we're on, they have to pitch to those guys in the middle."
Ethier's big night was a continuation of the revival he showed during last week's homestand (9-for-28, five extra-base hits), having struggled for two months since returning from a broken finger. He's hitting .329 with a 1.030 OPS in August, compared to .229/.613 in June and .247/.729 in July.
"I think mechanics-wise, that was my biggest thing, and I feel like I can do something," Ethier said. "I'm getting my mechanics back to what makes me a good hitter, better body position so I can see the ball better."
And just in time, with the Dodgers needing to gain serious ground if they want to be playing in October.
"We know how many back we are and how many are left and the importance of each win," Ethier said. "The offense comes in cycles, and you hope this is going to last to the end of the season. We have to get our confidence and let everyone know our offense is clicking. We're on an East Coast swing, and we haven't fared too well out here this year."
The Dodgers scored four runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Manager Joe Torre pointing out that the sixth-inning rally followed the Phillies' three-run fifth that closed the gap to 7-4.
The Dodgers had 18 hits and went 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
"I'm pleased with the way we kept coming back and scored," said Torre. "In the sixth we came right back and that was good for us. The top of the order made a big difference in the way we feel about ourselves."
Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: "We just couldn't stop them. I felt like their left-handed hitters were too much for us."