It was a series pitting two closely matched teams against one another. In a close and short series, taking advantage of opportunities is usually the key, and the Dodgers were able to do that, sweeping away the Cardinals in three games.
The Dodgers faced the tall task of facing Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, who will both likely finish in the top three in NL Cy Young voting, in the first two games, but the Dodgers won them both, the second in improbable fashion with an unlikely ninth-inning comeback.
The Dodgers capitalized on nearly every opportunity, but the Cardinals did not, finishing with four hits in 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the series. The Dodger bullpen was an asset, as expected, and the Dodger starters got progressively better in each game.
The Dodgers who lost playoff series to the Cardinals in both 1985 and 2004, plus a regular-season playoff in 1946, were able to exact some measure of revenge with a 3-0 sweep. That the team with the best record in the league and best run differential in baseball won this series was not surprising, but the sweep was an unexpected and sweet result.
Dodger Batter of the Series: Andre Ethier managed to hit just one single in three games, yet still hit .500
Dodger Pitcher of the Series: This one was an easy call, as Vicente Padilla made his mark in Dodger history with seven scoreless innings in the closeout win in Game 3. Padilla's game was just the eighth in Dodger postseason history with seven or more scoreless innings allowing four hits or fewer.
Series Record: 3-0
13 runs scored (4.33 per game)
6 runs allowed (2.00 per game)
.805 pythagorean winning percentage
Overall Seasonal Record: 98-67 (.594)
793 runs scored (4.81 per game)
617 runs allowed (3.74 per game)
.613 pythagorean winning percentage (101-64)
Game 1 Key Moments
- In the top of the first inning, the Cardinals got the first three men on base, the last via intentional walk to Albert Pujols. Looking at the run expectancy matrix from Baseball Prospectus, the Cardinals would be expected to score 2.28 runs in the inning, and probably more with Matt Holliday, Ryan Ludwick, and Yadier Molina coming up. However, the Cardinals scored just one run, and that was on a botched pop fly by Ronnie Belliard behind second base. After a very long top of the inning, the Dodgers immediately answered. A Rafael Furcal single was followed by a Matt Kemp laser beam home run to center, and the Dodgers never looked back.
- Randy Wolf was ineffective, and couldn't get out of the fourth inning. Jeff Weaver entered with two outs and the bases loaded, and pulled his Weaver magic yet again, getting Ryan Ludwick to ground back to the box to end the inning with the 3-2 lead preserved. In the regular season, opposing batters had just one hit in 20 at-bats against Weaver with the sacks jacked.
Game 2 Key Moments
- Adam Wainwright pitched a great game in Game Two, and was cruising early, retiring the first 11 Dodgers. That is, until Ethier took him deep to tie the game at one.
- With the game tied at one in the sixth inning, Joe Torre let Clayton Kershaw bat with one out. Kershaw was at 97 pitches, and although Kershaw has earned the right to be set free from his pitch count shackles at this point in the season, the Dodger bullpen is too strong not to utilize. Any advantage of Kershaw pitching over Ronald Belisario or Ramon Troncoso is greatly outweighed by the gain in having a real hitter at the plate in place of Kershaw. After grounding out in the sixth, Kershaw allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh.
- On the Colby Rasmus RBI double, with nobody out, James Loney alertly cutoff the throw in the infield and nailed Rasmus at third base with one out, helping limit the Cardinals to one run in the inning.
- Down one in the eighth inning, Torre used his best reliever, Jonathan Broxton, to face the all-righty heart of the lineup of Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick. Broxton retired all three, not allowing a ball hit out of the infield, to keep the Dodgers close.
- With two outs down 2-1 in the ninth, James Loney lofted an easy game-ending soft liner to left, only to have Matt Holliday misplay it, the ball hitting off his groin as Loney ended up at second base. While that play would have certainly ended the game, it's important to note the Cardinals still had an 86.7% win expectancy after the misplay.
- Casey Blake drew a nine-pitch walk, leading to a game-tying single by Ronnie Belliard, who has supplanted Orlando Hudson as the regular second baseman.
- After a walk to Russell Martin, Mark Loretta came through with the biggest hit of his career, ending a six-for-46 pinch hitting drought with a walk-off single, the Dodgers' 13th walk-off win of the season.
Game 3 Key Moments
- The Cardinals again loaded the bases in the first inning, this time with two outs, but Vicente Padilla ended the only real scoring threat against him by inducing an inning-ending groundout by Yadier Molina.
- Holding a 1-0 advantage in the third inning, Andre Ethier provided some breathing room for the Dodgers with a bomb to right field, a two-run home run to extend the lead to 3-0.
- Jonathan Broxton struck out Rick Ankiel, finishing the series with a 101-mph fastball to end the Cardinals season.
Not Gonna Beat Us: The first three times Albert Pujols came to the plate with a runner in scoring position, Joe Torre decided to intentionally walk the best player in the game. Pujols was limited to one run batted in during the series, and that came with the Cardinals down five runs in the eighth inning of Game 3.
Run Record: Andre Ethier scored five runs in the series, tying the Dodger record for a division series. Manny Ramirez had five runs scored last year against the Cubs. Ethier did set the Dodger record for most extra-base hits in a division series, with five.
A Slight Concern: Matt Kemp hit his first career playoff home run in his first at-bat of the series in Game 1. However, after that, Kemp had just one hit in 13 at-bats, and had eight strikeouts.
Along For The Ride: The home opener this season had two stars -- well, three including Vin Scully -- Chad Billingsley, with his 11 strikeouts over seven innings, and Orlando Hudson, with the second cycle in LA Dodger history. Both made the National League All-Star team this year. Yet, their contribution this series was almost nil. Billingsley, who was scheduled to pitch a fourth game if needed, didn't pitch an inning, and Hudson didn't get a plate appearance, although he was used as a defensive replacement or pinch runner in all three games.
Game By Game Results: