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09/27/09 12:03 AM ET

Playoffs await after Dodgers top Bucs

Rally clinches postseason bid for third time in four years

PITTSBURGH -- The Dodgers clinched a playoff spot Saturday night and there was champagne in the clubhouse, after all.

Manager Joe Torre, who earlier said the party would be delayed until the National League West was won, and general manager Ned Colletti decided to hold a subdued celebration after the Dodgers rallied for an 8-4 win over Pittsburgh. The French champagne -- Moet & Chandon -- was poured and sipped, not sprayed and doused. Not yet, anyway.

"It was very fitting," said Randy Wolf, who could look past the bullpen blowing another of his leads and leaving him with a 16th no-decision, none of that mattering now that he has his first career trip to the postseason.

"We had a toast, because Joe and Ned wanted to recognize it and wanted us to be proud of the accomplishment. We didn't want to overdo it. We've set our sights on the division. That's when we'll get messy. For me, it's nice to know I'll be there. The past 10 or 11 years I've been watching at home. It's special to me. I definitely appreciate every second of it."

There's still a division title to secure, possibly as soon as Sunday with the magic number down to one, any combination of Dodgers wins or Rockies defeats. When that happens, it will be the first time the Dodgers have finished first in consecutive seasons since 1977-78. With 93 wins, the Dodgers lead the Rockies by six games with seven to play.

As it is, the Dodgers have reached the postseason three of the past four years. That hasn't happened to the Dodgers since 1963-66. That's nine general managers ago.

"I am proud," Colletti said. "It's been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, whether in uniform on the field, scouts in the field, those in the office. Everybody grinding it out every day. I told the team that every team goes through tough times. We did, too. We stood together, supported each other and that got us where we are today."

Colletti ticked off the obstacles, among them overcoming the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez and injuries to pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Hong-Chih Kuo. He mentioned how players like Juan Pierre stepped up at the time and how, if they hadn't, the ending might have been different.

Managers with the most consecutive postseason appearances
Bobby Cox ATL 14 (1991-2005)
Joe Torre NYY, LAD 14 (1996-2009)
Mike Hargrove CLE 5 (1995-1999)
Casey Stengel NYY 5 (1949-1953)

"The season is measured by what you do with what you've got," he said. "The celebration was soft, classy, three minutes, a couple toasts. Sip some champagne and on to tomorrow. There's still a lot we want to accomplish. Most of the players have been here before. It's not like tonight is new. But many remember last year, the great feeling beating Chicago, and they also remember how it felt when Philly beat us on our field.

"I told them I'm proud of how they persevered and it's only step one. I've always said, you just want to be in it at the end and anything can happen. We're in it. All you want is a chance and we're going to have a chance."

The victory that secured the chance did not come easily. The Dodgers blew a 3-0 lead, their reliable bullpen rattled in a three-run seventh inning in which Wolf, Kuo and George Sherrill each walked a batter, two of them scoring.

Managers with the most consecutive winning seasons (since 1900)
Winning seasons
Joe McCarthy CHC, NYY 21 (1926-46)
Sparky Anderson CIN, DET 17 (1972-88)
Earl Weaver BAL 15 (1968-82)
Bobby Cox ATL 15 (1991-2005)
Al Lopez CLE, CWS 15 (1951-65)
Fred Clarke PIT 14 (1900-13)
Joe Torre NYY, LAD 14 (1996-2009)

"That leaves a hole in your stomach, the guys you've used to shut people down," Torre said of the bullpen. "But to be able to come back and win this game turns out more fruitful than if we'd win with the initial lead."

But the offense worked four walks out of the Pirates in a four-run eighth inning that included bases-loaded passes to pinch-hitter Andre Ethier and Orlando Hudson, then a game-breaking two-run pinch-single by crippled specialist Jim Thome one day after receiving another injection in his broken-down foot.

"That's kind of how we do it," Wolf said. "We're good counter-punchers. They had a big inning, we came back right away."

Despite an expanded roster, Brad Ausmus pinch-ran for Thome, who would have been thrown out at first if right fielder Garrett Jones had thrown there.

"When was the last time a 40-year-old pinch-ran for a 39-year-old?" Ausmus asked reporters. "Look it up and get back to me."

Ethier pinch-hit for Russell Martin, only two years removed from a Silver Slugger Award.

"You've got a guy with 30 [homers] and 100 [RBIs]," said Martin. "It just makes sense."

Ethier and James Loney did not start against left-hander Paul Maholm, but Loney's walk preceded Ethier's to load the bases. Ethier's walk tied the score at 4 and Hudson worked back from 0-2 for the go-ahead run. Ronnie Belliard slugged his fifth homer with the Dodgers in the ninth.

"I think there will be a lot more of a celebration when we clinch the division and secure the home-field advantage," Ethier said. "We have to keep winning and not sit back and watch people play around us."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.