The Cardinals go down. I don't think I unclenched my teeth for three hours. I'm either delirious or suddenly about 150 pounds lighter, but eiher way it feels pretty damn good. What an amazing way to finish this series, with Either and an apparently rejuvenated Manny leading the way, flying high while Vicente Padilla, just the latest in an ever-increasing line of Dodgers Who Weren't Dodgers in August, stepped up to take the stage and prove himself an essential postseason player. Padilla did it by muscling a steady diet of fastballs past the heretofore prodigious Cardinals lineup with amazing swagger, reducing Pujols, Holliday, De la Rosa et al down to the effectiveness of triple-A onlookers as they watched their World Series hopes take flight on battered wings of red and disappear into the chilly midwestern night.
I have to say, the Dodgers have the better season record against the Rockies (14-4) and have proven they can beat them in the games that count—you remember those games when the Rockies moved within two of first place, only to be repelled by Dodger wins and Rockies losses, and, oh, yeah, that division-clinching series on the first weekend of October. So sure, I think a Dodgers-Rockies NLCS might go down pretty easy indeed, and might also go a long way toward quashing the insistent line that the National League West is a soft division. With the Cardinals KO’ed today, and know-it-all pundit favorites like the Red Sox down for the count, and the Phillies no better than even after two in their series, the prospect of all those East Coast-biased teams dropping like flies is like catnip to my fantasies of the Dodgers making it back to the World Series at last. With this kind of steam built up as they roll into the NLCS, I wouldn’t be averse to a rematch from last year either, and a chance to dish out some payback for last year against the Almighty Phillies.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll say it for you, nonbeliever: What about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels? Okay, they’re damn good pitchers. Who would say otherwise? But so are Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. And as good as those Cardinal hurlers are, look where it got ‘em—a ticket to stand on the outside looking in as the Dodgers’ starters, whom absolutely no one gave more than a whisker’s chance in a blast furnace of surviving the La Russa-led gauntlet, are celebrating and still damned happy to be considered underdogs when it comes to that 2008 NLCS rematch. The Phillies have a big, power-hitting first baseman too who could be toppled just as easily as was Prince Albert over the course of the series-- the Dodgers lead the season matchup against Philadelphia four games to three-- and slingshot slingers like Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Vicente (El Hombre) Padilla are already picking out their rocks.
But that’s what might be. When the ice is finally chipped away on that chilly Rockies-Phillies series, then we can talk about the real thing. Now is for the savoring, and savor we shall, Dodger fans. Well done, gentlemen. Bring on Thursday.
Here’s former Dodger broadcaster Ross Porter on today’s game 3, and Los Angeles Times writer Ben Bolch with all the details.
(Photographs by Alex Gallardo, Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times, and Jeff Roberson, Associated Press)