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Dodgers Stake Claim to Wild Card Lead and Hope to Extend It Tonight

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There are five more games left in the 2006 regular season. What will the fate of the Dodgers be? Will they be packing their bags ready to hit the greens or packing their bags ready for some October batting practice? Last night, the answer has become clearer.

The Dodgers captured sole possession of the National League Wild Card lead by defeating the Colorado Rockies, 11-4. The Philadelphia Phillies, led by homerun sensation Ryan Howard, lost to the Washington Nationals, 4-3. Ryan Howard had a chance to win the game for Philadelphia, but he flied out to deep centerfield with the tying run on base for the last out of the game. Currently, we are one game up on Philadelphia in the wild card race and just 2 games back of the Padres in the National League West Division.

These remaining few games are what keep us watching. With the season coming to an end the Dodgers exploded against the Jason Johnson and the Rockies by collecting 17 hits, including 2 homeruns, 2 triples and 2 stolen bases. Both Nomar Garciaparra and Marlon Anderson hit 2-run homeruns and Russell Martin hit a 3 run triple.

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Greg Maddux earned his fifth win as a Dodger by pitching six innings and allowing just three runs. In the last five innings he threw just 50 total pitches. It was a masterful performance by the old "Professor." Even shaky Brett Tomko pitched well by going two innings in relief and giving up just one hit. Rookie Eric Stults closed out the game. Overall, the wide lead by the Dodgers gave the pitching staff a rare opportunity to rest up.

Tonight we send our staff ace and most consistent pitcher, Derek Lowe, against the Rockies Aaron Cook. Lowe has been phenomenal since the start of August. He has a record of 7-1 with and ERA of 2.08, 37 strikeouts and just 12 walks. Unfortunately, he has struggled in Coors Field in his career. This year he has a 6.17 ERA in Colorado. Fortunately, Aaron Cook has been just as bad, if not worse. He has a 6.50 ERA against the Dodgers in 2006 and has given up 13 earned runs on 4 homeruns.

On Thursday the Dodger will have Brad Penny face Colorado's Byung-Hyun Kim. Penny has been struggling since the start of July. He has a 5.69 ERA since July. On the other hand, Brad Penny has been incredible this year at Coors Field. In two games he has given up just 1 run in 14.1 innings for a 0.63 ERA.

AP Photo Jack Dempsey

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