Chances of clinching at home take a serious hit

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the major leagues in attendance, which is another way of saying they're back to being the Dodgers.

With seven home dates left, they have had more than 3.37 million fans buy tickets to their games. Since their dramatic uptick launched in June, those fans have provided some of the most raucous environments in baseball, helping to fuel dramatic victories.

So, yeah, the Dodgers would love to celebrate their first division crown in four seasons on their home turf this weekend, with 50,000 fans enjoying it with them, but it might take one more dramatic late surge to pull that off.

Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks guaranteed the earliest the Dodgers could clinch would be Sunday, and even that is a long shot.

The Dodgers' magic number is six. The second-place Diamondbacks don't play Thursday, and when they resume, they're taking on the Colorado Rockies, who have lost six of their past nine. The Dodgers are playing the San Francisco Giants, which is not exactly a herculean task in 2013, but the first two pitching matchups are good ones: Zack Greinke versus Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw versus Madison Bumgarner.

If it doesn't happen by Sunday, it's sure to happen on the road. The Dodgers embark on a 10-game trip Monday in Arizona.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis acknowledged that celebrating at home would be sweeter than clinching somewhere else, where the party would be respectfully confined to the clubhouse.

"Absolutely," he said. "The fan support this year has been unbelievable. They've been energizing us, and we've had so many full houses here that have carried us through some of these dramatic victories we've had.

"So, yeah, if we could find a way to finish it off this weekend, we'll feel fortunate."

That might be a motivating factor over the next few days, but chasing down the Atlanta Braves for the best record in the National League clearly is not. Both Ellis and manager Don Mattingly said they're not even thinking along those lines, and some of Mattingly's lineups lately have proved that.

Against lefty Patrick Corbin on Wednesday, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis all sat.

"Just trying to win a game, take care of our business and see where we're at," Mattingly said.

With a 12-game division lead, the Dodgers have no particular reason to play their regulars extensively this weekend, but you get the impression there are sentimental reasons spurring them on.