T.J. SIMERS

McCourts' latest fight over money is real rich

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IT APPEARED before the game the Dodgers were running up the white flag in starting Elian Herrera, Matt Treanor, Juan Rivera and Nick Punto.

But A.J. Ellis is worn down and has been ineffective, Mark Ellis is sick, Shane Victorino is battling an injury that won't allow him to bat right-handed and Andre Ethier is struggling against left-handed pitching.

Forced to make the moves he did, Manager Don Mattingly looked later as if he knew what he was doing. A stretch, I know.

Punto seemed to electrify his dead teammates, going three for four and becoming the first Dodger since Ethier on Aug. 10, 2010, to score four runs in a game.

Punto not only scored the first run of the game, but in what has become a characteristic move, he slid safely head-first into first base while bunting for a hit in the third inning.

Didn't anyone ever tell Punto he will reach first faster running across the bag?

"You put a swimming pool at the finish line for sprinters and I think they are going to jump into that pool rather than running through the tape," Punto said, and it would certainly make the finish more exciting.

BEFORE THE win, I was quizzing Mattingly about his benching of Ethier with the Dodgers still mathematically alive.

Mattingly said Ethier hasn't had much success against San Diego pitcher Clayton Richard, so playing someone else will give the Dodgers the best chance to win.

"But if Either is one of your true-grit, top-of-the-line players, wouldn't most managers still ride him hard, given the critical nature of this game?"

"Not in this game against this guy," Mattingly said.

"Who are you playing in his place?" I said.

"Rivera," Mattingly said.

I make a discouraging face. And say, "OK, so watch Rivera end up getting the big hit in this game. And then you'll get your big moment in the [postgame news conference] later."

"Probably not," Mattingly said.

Before everyone stops laughing, Mattingly attempts to set the record straight. He's not saying Rivera won't hit, but Mattingly probably won't get his minute after the game.

A short time later, Rivera hits a home run and from the dugout Mattingly takes a long look up to the press box.

Apparently, he couldn't wait for his moment.

SO ERIC Gagne says in a book that 80% of his Dodgers teammates were using performance-enhancing drugs.

At least that explains it. If the Dodgers were more of a team and had been 100% committed to doing what it takes to win, they might have won more than one playoff game in Gagne's time in L.A.

I've got a good feeling none of these Dodgers are on anything unless it's downers.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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