Dodgers complete sweep of Cardinals

Unemployed in August and a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers in October. Once Vicente Padilla got out of the first inning, he slammed the door on the St. Louis Cardinals’ season.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre celebrates after the Dodgers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League division series Saturday in St. Louis. The Dodgers won the game 5-1 to sweep the Cardinals and advance to the National League Championship Series.

Dodgers 5 Cardinals 1

ST. LOUIS — Unemployed in August and a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers in October. Once Vicente Padilla got out of the first inning, he slammed the door on the St. Louis Cardinals’ season.

The second-chance pitcher kept Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday quiet in a 5-1 victory Saturday night that gave Los Angeles a second straight trip to the National League championship series.

“Anytime you win a series it’s good,” Casey Blake said. “But to sweep the Cardinals, it just doesn’t happen. I would have never guessed we would have swept them.”

The Dodgers got their sweep in a series that will be remembered most for Holliday’s pivotal dropped fly ball with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 2.

Andre Ethier missed the cycle by a single, Manny Ramirez had three hits and two RBIs and the Dodgers didn’t need another St. Louis fielding blunder to sweep their division series opponent for a second straight season. Los Angeles scored all five runs with two outs.

Closer Jonathan Broxton struck out Rick Ankiel for the last out and pumped his fist as the Dodgers ran out to the mound to celebrate becoming the first team to advance to the championship series. They await the winner of the Philadelpia-Colorado series that is even at a game apiece. The Phillies beat Los Angeles in the NLSC last season in five games.

Pujols and Holliday were a combined 2 for 8 with a late RBI for the Cardinals, who never recharged after becoming the first National League team to clinch a division title. Counting the post-season St. Louis was 1-9 after wrapping up the NL Central, and was swept for the first time in the division series or NLCS play and only for the third time overall in the post-season.

This team and the 1928 team that got swept in the World Series by the Yankees are the only teams in franchise history to fail to win a game in the post-season.

“It’s hard to believe we’re thinking about next year,” Ryan Ludwick said. “It just seems a long way away.”

Pujols, 3 for 10 with an RBI and no extra-base hits in the series, left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters. Holliday was 2 for 12 with a solo homer.

“For some reason, our offence, we couldn’t get anything going,” Holliday said. “We had some good at-bats here or there but as far as stringing anything together we had a hard time.”

Padilla, designated for assignment by the Rangers in early August, was 4-0 the final month with the Dodgers before shutting down the Cardinals on four hits over seven innings in his first career post-season appearance. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning he was dominant, retiring 19 of 21 hitters against a team he last faced in 2003.

The Dodgers were already up 3-0 in the third inning when starter Joel Pineiro dropped Pujols’ simple toss at first for an error on James Loney’s grounder for the lifeless Cardinals, who were beset by bad play this series.

Holliday got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 47,296 before his first at-bat with two men on and one out in the first. Then he tapped out to the mound. Pfft.

Over and over, he said he was touched by the ovation. Even if it was a recruiting pitch for a player headed for free agency.

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