LOS ANGELES -- It's a long shot for the Dodgers to make the playoffs, but manager Don Mattingly still has his pitchers preparing as if they will be playing past Wednesday's regular-season finale.
Focused on playing one game at a time, Mattingly admitted he hasn't even thought about who would start a tiebreaker if the Dodgers caught the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.
As of now, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Clayton Kershaw are scheduled to pitch against San Francisco to close out the regular season.
The odds aren't in the Dodgers' favor with the Cardinals needing to lose two games and Los Angeles likely needing to sweep the Giants. But if everything went the team's way over the next few days, Thursday would be Joe Blanton's day to pitch. Blanton is 2-4 with a 4.99 ERA with the Dodgers, but he threw six scoreless innings in his last start.
Another possibility to start that game would be Josh Beckett, who allowed just one run in six innings Sunday. Mattingly said he'd consider going with Beckett on short rest, but he acknowledged how he thought the entire rotation has thrown the ball pretty well lately.
But for now, the Dodgers need to continue winning and hope for a Cincinnati series win in St. Louis for that to even matter.
Catcher Ellis surging as season winds down
LOS ANGELES -- Until recently, September had been a nightmare for most of the Dodgers' hitters, maybe none more so than for A.J. Ellis.
The catcher was batting just 7-for-51 (.137) with only one RBI in 18 games to start the month. But like many of his teammates, things have picked up considerably for Ellis.
With the calendar flipping over to October, he is batting 9-for-23 (.391) in his last six games and he has an RBI in each of them and eight total. The RBI streak is a Dodgers season-long streak and, in typical fashion, the modest Ellis praised his teammates for his recent success.
"RBIs are a product of guys on base in front of me," he said. "There's been a lot of traffic out there."
But that hasn't been the case completely. Ellis hit a two-run homer in the sixth Sunday and he now has four extra-base hits during this current run.
It was his 12th homer of the season, and the power total from the catcher position has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers.
"Funny what happens when you don't try to," Ellis said.
As for the recent turnaround, manager Don Mattingly pointed to a ninth-inning double by Ellis on Sept. 23 against the Reds that snapped an 0-for-30 slump.
"He's driven some balls into the gap and gotten some hits," Mattingly said. "He seems better at the plate. We're not quite sure why he hit that little spell. He had another one a little earlier in the year."
Mattingly said he wasn't sure whether the funk was because Ellis was tired from catching his first full Major League season or if it was just a routine cold streak.
However, he did say fatigue -- mental more than physical -- does play a part, with Ellis needing to study all the time and that wearing down a catcher.
"It's not like he's hitting and going into the outfield," said Mattingly. "He's got to call every pitch, and the games we have been in are like you can't give up a run or anything."
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.