LOS ANGELES -- Are the Dodgers this year's 2008 Cubs, about to waste the league's best regular-season record with a quick exit from the playoffs? The way the Dodgers went about not clinching the division over the final week, stumbling to a season-high five-game losing streak before finally sealing the deal, might be cause for concern as they open the National League Division Series against the Cardinals on Wednesday.
It just doesn't seem to be cause for concern inside the Dodgers clubhouse."We've wobbled a little bit, but for us to avoid that, we just have to play our game," said Game 1 starter Randy Wolf. "The last two games were big for us to show we had that fight and to get us to believe we could win again. The Cubs last season were more dominating than we've been this year. They had a bigger lead and they clinched before we did. I think our timing was pretty good psychologically, having a celebration one day before the season ends." The Dodgers won the NL West by three games at the end, although the lead had grown to a high of 9 1/2 games in early June and was as much as six games as late as Sept. 24. They captured back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1977-78 and have reached the postseason during three of the past four seasons under general manager Ned Colletti for the first time since '63-66. They won 95 games for the first time since '85 and went 50-32 at home, their best mark at Dodger Stadium since 1991, thanks in large part to winning their first 13 home games. Andre Ethier said the Dodgers will advance to the NL Championship Series again this year because they play their game in October, not because they had more wins during the other six months. "Just because you have the best record starting from April doesn't mean you're the best team in October," said Ethier. "Just because you have the best record doesn't mean you're supposed to win the whole thing. That's why those other teams are in it. Those wins in April and May get you here, but they don't translate into having the best chance in the playoffs. Those wins came with a five-man rotation, but you go to three or four starters in the playoffs and that changes a lot of things. You're not racking up wins against any fifth starters in the playoffs, usually. Now it's a five-game season or a seven-game season instead of 162." Matt Kemp said the final weekend reflected how the Dodgers have rebounded against other obstacles during the season. "When we're going bad, we've always bounced back and got our swag back," Kemp said. "I think winning the two games over the weekend has wiped out the week before that and got our confidence level back to where it needs to be and it should carry over to the postseason."