Padilla strong as Dodgers win 95th
Righty makes playoff case with 10 strikeouts in five innings
LOS ANGELES -- Backup catcher Brad Ausmus might have been the manager and backups might have filled out most of the lineups on both sides.
But something substantial still can be taken from the Dodgers' 5-3 win over the Rockies in Sunday's season finale at Dodger Stadium.
Right-hander Vicente Padilla looked comfortable and under control on the mound -- comfortable enough to possibly earn a starting nod against the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
Game 1 of the series between the Dodgers and Cardinals is set for Wednesday at 6:37 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.
"He looked great today," said Ausmus, who led the Dodgers to their 95th win of the season, their most wins since the 1985 Dodgers also won 95 games.
"I don't have any say on the playoff roster, and he certainly pitched great today. Five innings of shutout ball, you can't ask for anything more."
Padilla struck out the side to start the game and then fanned the first two batters in the top of the second. Sound familiar?
But unlike teammate Clayton Kershaw, who retired the first 11 Rockies he faced Saturday, Padilla gave up a solo homer to Brad Hawpe in the second inning.
The home run was the only blip on an otherwise productive afternoon for Padilla, who lasted five innings, gave up four hits and struck out 10.
It was the kind of effort the Dodgers hoped to see from Padilla against the Rockies, especially because his two previous starts left much to be desired. In those two starts (against the Giants and Nationals), Padilla threw a total of 10 innings and gave up eight runs on 13 hits.
But the Padilla that was on the mound Sunday had more command of his pitches and looked like a pitcher trying to state his case for a postseason role.
"I'm not the one who's going to be making that decision," Padilla said. "I'm going to prepare myself. I'm going to be training and be strong, and be ready for any game they ask me to pitch."
One thing to keep in mind is that the Dodgers didn't bring Jon Garland out of the bullpen on Sunday. Garland hasn't pitched for the Dodgers since Wednesday in San Diego when he gave up four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Garland and Chad Billingley are the other two pitches in contention for the final two rotation spots, and manager Joe Torre said that Billingsley would throw a simulated game at the Dodgers' training complex in Arizona on Monday.
With Padilla's outing on Sunday and Billingsley's workout on Monday, it seems the Dodgers' likely move is to go with Padilla and Billingsley in some combination for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary).
Making life easier for Padilla was a Dodgers offense that picked up right where it left off Saturday night in posting a big first inning.
Juan Pierre led off the frame with a triple, and then Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier reached to load the bases with one out.
A Casey Blake single gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead, and Doug Mientkiewicz earned his first RBI hit since April 16 with a single.
Then with two outs, A.J. Ellis increased the lead to 4-0 with the third RBI single of the inning. It was Ellis' first hit and RBI of his Major League career.
The four-run first propelled Ausmus to a 1-0 record as a manager in the Majors.
"I'm turning the reins right back over to Joe -- if he ever shows up again," Ausmus said. "It was a little different, it's a little more difficult."
The Dodgers drew 51,396 fans for Sunday's game to run their season attendance total to 3,761,669 -- the highest mark in the Majors, and second highest in franchise history.
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.