SAN DIEGO -- Andre Ethier is one of the Dodgers' big guns, key pieces, most potent bats.
They will pay him $85 million over the next five seasons because he is an important fixture in the middle of their lineup.
Important. But clearly not essential.
Not with the season on the line.
With the Dodgers' fading hopes for an NL wild-card slot almost gone ... Ethier was on the bench for their latest must-win game here Wednesday.
Manager Don Mattingly, thoroughly frustrated by his club's inability to score more than a couple runs a game lately, cited Ethier's career struggles against San Diego's Clayton Richard. Ethier is batting only .143 (4 for 28) lifetime against the lefty with three strikeouts and one walk.
"Our best chance to win is with this lineup against this guy," Mattingly said.
In the end, with Elian Herrera in left field and Juan Rivera in right, the skipper was correct: The Dodgers whipped the Padres 8-2 Wednesday.
But the decision sure doesn't say much about Ethier.
No, the numbers didn't line up in his favor against Richard.
But with the season down to a final seven or eight games and playoff hopes hanging by a thread, this is a time for impact players.
Shane Victorino was nursing a sore left wrist, so Herrera or Rivera -- one of them -- had to play.
Matt Kemp, who essentially is playing with one arm after injuring a shoulder running into a wall in Colorado's Coors Field last month, played and homered Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ethier's absence, at point in the season, was glaring.
Likes: Dusty Baker out of the hospital. Get well soon, Dusty. And while he does, check out this good piece on him from Mark Sheldon, my friend who covers the club for MLB.com. ... Saw Trouble With the Curve and liked it. Didn't love it. It's nowhere near as good as Moneyball. The writing at times is too obvious. But between the baseball and Clint Eastwood, it's hard to go too wrong.
Dislikes: Watched my Godson play high school football for my old school on Friday, and my Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, coached by my old pal and classmate Jack Giarmo, lost to Milan 35-20. Tough one, but the Falcons are going to take it out on Riverview this Friday.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We waited for the sirens that never come
"And we only write by the moon
"Every word handwritten
"And to ease the loss of youth
"And how many years I've missed you
"Pages plead forgiveness
"Every word handwritten"
-- The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten