LOS ANGELES -- Back in May, Dodgers ownership was very close to firing Manager Don Mattingly.
Five months, a historic turnaround and a berth in the National League Championship Series later, that same ownership has apparently decided to bring Mattingly back for at least another year. Multiple reports citing anonymous sources indicate the decision to retain Mattingly as manager for 2014 has already been made.
Team officials have steadfastly refused to comment on the record about Mattingly's status and would not address the most recent reports. It's unclear whether Mattingly's $1.4 million club option for 2014 will simply be picked up or if an extension adding years to his contract will be negotiated. Clarity on that point might not come until well after the Dodgers are eliminated from the postseason.
Mattingly is in the final season of a three-year contract signed after he succeeded Joe Torre in 2011. Last November, Mattingly asked the new Dodgers' ownership if the club option for 2014 would be picked up before this season. He was told it would not, sending Mattingly into 2013 with lame-duck status and the high expectations created by the team's $234.5 million payroll.
That combination created a firestorm of speculation that he would be fired as the team stumbled to a 30-42 start, spending most of the first half of the season below .500 and last in the NL West. That dissipated amidst the Dodgers' 42-8 midseason run and march to the playoffs. However, speculation continued Mattingly would need to get the Dodgers beyond the first round in order to ensure a return for 2014.
The Dodgers have gone 260-225 (.536) with a winning record in each of Mattingly's seasons as manager, but made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this year.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis has used the extra media attention of the postseason at every opportunity to mock Zack Greinke's fantasy football skills. Wednesday's series-extending victory in which Greinke held the Cardinals to two runs in seven innings was an excellent chance.
"Part of me thinks part of the reason he pitched so well today was that he wants to keep us around for at least a couple more days so he has somebody to trade with and upgrade his wide receiver corps," Ellis joked after the game.
But Ellis might be onto something. Greinke acknowledged he does have some extra motivation to keep the Dodgers playing as long as possible this month.
"I'm tied for last place," Greinke said. "I've got a bet that I won't be in last place by the time the season's over. So I needed to go to Sunday for that.
"I've got a $10 bet on it, so it's important."
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was in the starting lineup again but is not swinging comfortably as he tries to play with a hairline fracture in one rib. He was hitless in three at-bats and Mattingly removed him after the sixth inning. Ramirez declined to talk to reporters after the game. ...
The Dodgers hit seven home runs in their four-game NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves but didn't hit one in the first four games of the NLCS against the Cardinals. They hit four in Game 5, matching the franchise record for home runs in a postseason game set in Game 2 of the 1977 World Series against the Yankees (Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, Reggie Smith and Steve Garvey) and Game 1 of the 1978 NLCS against the Phillies (Davey Lopes, Yeager and two by Garvey).
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