This was supposed to be a quick exit for Los Angeles. They weren’t supposed to be able to get to the St. Louis Cardinals’ vaunted pitching staff. This was supposed to be Albert Pujols' and Matt Holliday’s playoff coming out party. Apparently Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, and the rest of the LA Dodgers didn’t get the message.
A decisive 5-1 victory in an abnormally quiet Busch Stadium, backed by seven shutout innings from the somewhat unlikely Vincente Padilla, left no doubt about the NL West Champions. All of a sudden, these Dodgers look rejuvenated and as good as they did back in April and May, when they first were called World Series contenders.
Even though the Cardinals’ bats were held in check to the tune of just six runs in three games, it’s hard to ignore the timely hitting from the Dodgers as a key factor in the sweep. No player on the field had a bigger impact on the series than Andre Ethier, continuing his late-season tear into October, hitting .500 in the series with two home runs and three RBI. That includes the two-run home run in tonight’s game to make it 3-0 Dodgers in the game, and eventually 3-0 in the series for L.A.
Now the Dodgers get to sit and watch the Phillies and Rockies battle it out for the next two games of their series in wintry Denver, and potentially play an all-or-nothing game back in Philadelphia. Either way, the winner of that series has to go out to Chavez Ravine, where a well-rested, well-managed, and a—maybe most importantly—hungry Dodgers team will be lined up and primed for the NLCS. Both teams bring up some big motivators for the Dodgers, as well.
If it’s the Rockies, the motivation is explicit. A battle to end all battles of an NLCS against their closest rivals from the NL West. A team they beat 14 times in 18 games, and yet, it seemed down the stretch that a lot more people were watching Colorado than Los Angeles. It’s a great chance for the Dodgers to reclaim their supremacy on the West Coast, especially if they are to possibly meet the Angels in the World Series.
If it’s the Phillies, you better believe that closer Johnathan Broxton will be fired up. In last year’s NLCS, it was Broxton who gave up the key home run to pinch-hitter Matt Stairs that permanently shifted the series in favor of the defending World Champions. Most of the members of that 2008 Dodgers team are still around and remember the feeling of getting beaten by the Phillies and will have that to feed off of if they come into Dodger Stadium for the second consecutive year for the NLCS.
Regardless of the result of the other NLDS series, the only thing that is certain at this point is that the Dodgers are not going to go silently—if not by their play, then simply by their surroundings. Only time will tell if it’ll be a Hollywood ending in Mannywood.