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Dodgers Hope For Success The Fourth Time Around

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It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, "Don't forget,
Everybody must give something back
For something they get."

-Bob Dylan, 4th Time Around

After giving something back for three days, the Dodgers look to get something tonight. The Dodgers entered play Sunday with a magic number of one to clinch the National League West. Three days later, the magic number is still one. The Dodgers champagne and Visqueen party is tentatively scheduled again for tonight, as the Dodgers close out their road schedule with a final game in San Diego.

Jon Garland takes the hill tonight, making his sixth start as a Dodger. He has pitched well so far, with a 1.91 ERA, although his peripherals show a 3.55 FIP and 3.93 x-FIP since joining Los Angeles -- good, but not 1.91 ERA good. Part of the reason Garland has been so effective recently -- he has pitched six innings in 21 of 22 starts since the start of June -- is an increase in his strikeout rate. Before the All-Star break, Garland struck out a paltry 3.62 batters per nine innings, but since the midsummer classic he has upped that to 6.01 punchouts per nine. That is quite an increase for someone who hasn't struck out higher than 4.8 batters per nine innings since 2003.

Clayton Richard, a man who seems like he was named backwards, pitches for the Padres tonight. Richard, acquired from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade, is 4-2 with a 4.58 ERA, 4.77 FIP, and 4.60 x-FIP since joining the Padres. However, he has really taken a liking to his new home park. In five starts at Petco Park, Richard has a 2.48 ERA, and the Padres have won all five games.

With the left-handed Richard throwing tonight, it might not be a bad idea to sit Andre Ethier, who is in the midst of a one-for-28 slump. Ethier still has the weird split this season in that he has just seven singles in 81 at-bats against southpaws on the road, hitting .086/.196/.086 against them. Part of that is bad luck -- he has a ridiculously low .121 batting average on balls in play -- but a day off might serve him well.

Speaking a time off helping a player: Since rejoining the lineup on September 25, Orlando Hudson has played five complete games and is hitting .333/.556/.750 with six walks and two triples. Maybe that rest did him some good. He has triples in consecutive games for the second time this season. Since moving to Los Angeles, only Pedro Guerrero had a longer streak, with three straight in July 1983.

The Padres are 12 games over .500 since July 27, and their 35-23 record over that time is tied with the Rockies for tops in the division. Of course, they have also only outscored their opponents by 15 runs in that span, compared to the +63 run differential for the 31-28 Dodgers.

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Other games of Dodger interest:

The Phillies host the Astros, with a magic number of one to clinch the NL East over the Braves. Pedro Martinez opposes Brian Moehler in that game. The Dodgers hold a 1½-game lead over the Phillies in the race for home field advantage in the playoffs. The Dodgers magic number in this regard is three over the Phillies.

4:05pm - Astros at Phillies Gameday

The NL Central champion Cardinals are in Cincinnati to face the Reds, with John Smoltz facing the high straight leg kick of Bronson Arroyo. The Dodgers hold a 2½-game lead over the Cards in the race for home field advantage in the playoffs. The Dodgers magic number in this regard is also three over the Cardinals.

4:10pm - Cardinals at Reds Gameday

The Rockies host the Brewers at 5:40pm, a game that starts roughly 85 minutes before the Dodger game. Jason Hammel will face Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan. One Rockies loss or one Dodger win means a division crown for Los Angeles.

5:40pm - Brewers at Rockies Gameday

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Be sure to check out Xeifrank's simulation of tonight's game here.

Don't forget to RSVP for True Blue LA Day at Dodger Stadium, on the next-to-last day of the regular season, October 3 against the Rockies. There are three tickets left.

Get your guesses in for today's final "One, Two, Three Strikes, You're Out," here.

Game Time: 7:05pm

TV: Prime Ticket

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