LOS ANGELES -- For the first time this season, there was nothing at stake for the repeat NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. So Joe Torre, maintaining a tradition he used during his time with the New York Yankees, let backup catcher Brad Ausmus manage.
Ausmus' day was a success. Vicente Padilla struck out 10 in five innings, and the Dodgers finished the regular season with a 5-3 victory over the wild-card Colorado Rockies on Sunday.Los Angeles had clinched its second straight division title Saturday night with a 5-0 victory."Joe came up to me when we were celebrating on the field last night and said, 'You want to manage tomorrow night?' I said, 'I'll be here,' and he said, 'All right, you're managing.'"The three-time Gold Glove catcher was ably assisted by "bench coach" Mark Loretta, "hitting coach" Jim Thome and "bullpen coach" Jeff Weaver -- all designated by Torre while Bob Schaefer, Don Mattingly and Ken Howell got the day off.Ausmus went to the mound to make a pitching change in the eighth to replace Ronald Belisario with Scott Elbert, then put himself in as a pinch runner for Thome in the bottom half after his hitting coach singled."I'm turning the reins right back over to Joe -- if he ever shows up again," Ausmus joked. "Today's just all about the fun. We're fortunate we're in a position where we can have fun like this. I have thought about doing it, but I'm still trying to get through the playing part of my career."There are times when I think I'd like to do it, and there's times when I think I'd like to walk away from a baseball stadium and never come back. But those are usually the days when I'm 0 for 4 with three strikeouts," Ausmus said.The Dodgers took sole possession of first place for good on April 19 with a 14-2 win over the Rockies, won the season series 14-4 and finished three games ahead of Colorado. The Rockies, who nearly erased a deficit that was 15 1/2 games before play on June 4, needed a sweep to gain their first division title."You look at every team, even the teams in the playoffs, and you're going to see a month where they struggled. Ours just happened to be the first month, but we turned it around and went from there," the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki said.Los Angeles finished an NL-best 95-67 in its second season under Torre -- the first time the Dodgers have had the league's best record since 1983. They host St. Louis on Wednesday in their postseason opener, while Colorado starts the same day at Philadelphia.The Dodgers, who set a modern major league record by winning their first 13 home games, finished 50-31 at Chavez Ravine -- their best home mark since going 54-27 in 1991. They were 29-21 while Manny Ramirez served a 50-game drug suspension.Colorado went a franchise-best 92-70, including 74-42 after Jim Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle as manager on May 29."Trace is a good guy and a good baseball man," Torre said. "He sort of cleaned the slate over there and gave everybody the feeling they he trusted what they were doing -- and they responded to him. And you can just see that by the way they play. There's out there playing with a lot of confidence because they feel good about who they are."Padilla (4-0) allowed one run and four hits without issuing a walk. He had a 2.99 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance with the Dodgers, after going 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 18 starts with Texas.Ramon Troncoso allowed a run in the ninth before finishing for his sixth save in seven attempts.Jason Marquis (15-13) gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings, finishing the season with a 4.04 ERA and a career-high 216 innings.The Dodgers, who outscored their opponents 121-54 in the first, took a 4-0 lead in the opening inning on a two-run single by Casey Blake and RBI singles by Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Ellis.Just as Clayton Kershaw did on Saturday, Padilla struck out his first five batters. Brad Hawpe followed with his 23rd homer and 85th RBI, one more RBI than last season.
Ramirez, who has a record 28 postseason home runs, hasn't hit one in 31 at-bats since Sept. 18. ... The Dodgers drew an NL-leading 3,761,669 to Chavez Ravine, the second-highest figure in franchise history behind 3,857,036 in 2007. ... The Rockies finished 41-40 away from home, their first winning road record in club history. ... Todd Helton, one of several Colorado regulars to get the day off, finished with a .325 batting average -- his highest since 2004 and 61 points better than during his injury-plagued 2008 season.