As injuries mount, Dodgers look to clinch

LOS ANGELES -- As the Los Angeles Dodgers march toward their first postseason berth in four years, the hitch in their gait is getting more noticeable by the day.

Andre Ethier is the latest starter to hobble off the field, grimacing as he legged out a double in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss Friday night against the visiting San Francisco Giants.

Afterward, the left ankle injury was downplayed by both Ethier and manager Don Mattingly, but the stress of trying to lock up the National League West seems to be building with each setback.

“I’d really like to have that peace of mind that we clinched,” said Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead against the Giants and dropped to 14-9 on the season. “Anything can happen.”

The Dodgers saw their magic number to clinch a playoff spot dip to four when the Arizona Diamondbacks lost Friday to the Colorado Rockies. With a 12 ½-game lead in the West, the Dodgers can feel comfortable putting their playoff tickets on sale.

But that won’t make clinching any easier, as they’ll likely be without three key starters for the remainder of this series.

Mattingly said he’ll probably rest Ethier after Friday’s setback, an injury that initially occurred when Ethier twisted the ankle while taking a swing at Colorado earlier this month. The club also learned before Friday’s game that the left hamstring tightness that knocked shortstop Hanley Ramirez from Thursday’s series opener was the result of an irritated nerve in his back. Mattingly is hoping to have Ramirez back in the lineup for the start of Monday’s four-game series at Arizona.

Mattingly said it was comforting to at least know what was causing the tightness in Ramirez’s hamstring.

“We’ll get that thing calmed down and know what we’re attacking,” he said. “It’s just kind of good to know.”

Then there’s Matt Kemp, the National League home run and RBI leader two years ago who has been limited to 62 games this season because of shoulder, hamstring and ankle injuries. Kemp has been recuperating in Arizona after an ineffective rehabilitation stint last month with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.

“You never want to be beat up,” Kershaw said. “Obviously, this time of year, there are some aches and pains. ... We just need to clinch it. We need to get to that point. From there, we can figure out the best way to rest guys and all that stuff.”