Dodgers skip wild-card celebration

CHICAGO -- Some of the Los Angeles Dodgers gathered at an Italian restaurant in Chicago on Friday night for a party hosted by team chairman and billionaire Mark Walter, who lives in the Chicago area. By about 10 p.m., word began going around that the Milwaukee Brewers had lost, guaranteeing the Dodgers a wild-card berth.

And the reaction was … nothing. No toast. No back-slapping.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he wasn’t even aware the Brewers had lost. He was aware only that the Dodgers had clinched a wild-card tie when they left Wrigley Field on Friday evening. It’s fair to say the Dodgers, who lead the San Francisco Giants by 3 ½ games in the NL West, have higher aspirations than to play in a do-or-die wild-card game. Their focus has been fairly steadfast in that regard for months.

The Dodgers, whose magic number is six, can clinch the division as soon as Monday, when they open a three-game series with the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s a great accomplishment and an honor to know you’re going to be playing baseball when the regular season is over, but we know we’ve got a big series coming up,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Hopefully, in that series we can celebrate something really special.”

Said Clayton Kershaw, “It’d be kind of a letdown to get just the wild card.”

Notes: Hyun-Jin Ryu played light catch from a distance of roughly 40 feet, the first step in what the team is calling a “sub-maximal” throwing program. Mattingly said Ryu likely will repeat the exercise Sunday and amp it up in coming days depending on how his sore left shoulder responds. The Dodgers would like to get Ryu one last regular-season start, perhaps against Colorado in the last weekend of the season, but they have said they would be comfortable if his next start comes in the playoffs.