The Los Angeles Dodgers are in position to gain a playoff spot, but they seem poised to accomplish much more.
The Dodgers can clinch manager Joe Torre’s record-tying 14th straight postseason appearance Friday night when they open a four-game set against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
Los Angeles (92-61) won for the 11th time in 15 games Thursday with a 7-6 victory at Washington. Torre, who reached the playoffs all 12 years he managed the Yankees before leaving to join the Dodgers, can match Atlanta manager Bobby Cox’s record of 14 straight playoff berths.
The Dodgers haven’t made back-to-back postseason appearances since 1995-96. Their magic number is one for a playoff berth and five to clinch a second straight NL West title. They also lead Philadelphia by 2 1/2 games in the race to gain home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Los Angeles, though, wasn’t in a celebratory mood after going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position Thursday. The Dodgers blew a four-run lead before Rafael Furcal’s(notes) go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning.
“This game,” Torre said, “was a very frustrating game.”
Pittsburgh (56-95) has lost six in a row, nine of 10 and 23 of 26 amid the franchise’s worst September swoon since it went 5-22 in 1998. That includes a three-game sweep by the Dodgers from Sept. 14-16 in which the Pirates managed seven runs.
Jon Garland(notes) (11-11, 4.02 ERA) gets the start for the Dodgers, and looks to remain unbeaten since being acquired from Arizona on Aug. 31. The veteran right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts with Los Angeles.
His last effort Saturday against San Francisco was outstanding. Garland gave up an unearned run and seven hits over eight innings in a 12-1 victory.
He’s 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates, earning a 6-2 win Sept. 14 by yielding two runs and six hits over six innings.
Manager John Russell chose Karstens because of the right-hander’s experience. Karstens went 2-3 with a 5.30 ERA in 10 starts before being shifted to the bullpen when Charlie Morton(notes) was acquired June 4 from Atlanta.
“He’s done it before,” Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “Jeff has started more games at the major league level, so he has a better feel for preparation and what he needs to do to get ready for the game, and how to get through it.”
In his lone previous start against the Dodgers on Sept. 16, 2008, Karstens allowed five runs and 11 hits over five innings in a 6-2 loss.
Karstens went 3-5 with a 5.65 ERA over 15 appearances - nine starts - pitching under Torre with the Yankees from 2006-07.