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Dodgers Neuter Red Birds, On to NLCS

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Dodgers manager Joe Torre made sure that his team would not suffer a letdown after their miraculous 3-2 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in game two of the National League Divisional Series.

“We took advantage of the break,” Torre said before the game of getting Thursday’s victory out of their heads, “and we’re sitting up here two games to none.

“We are sitting in a situation where we can do something special, but we still have to make each game special.”

His team heeded his words tearing through the Cardinals 5-1 en route to sweep the NLDS in front of 47,296 Cardinals fans, the largest crowd ever to attend a Cardinals game in St. Louis.

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Manny Ramirez, the goat for the Dodgers during September, woke up from his slumber in the first inning by doubling Matt Kemp home to give the Dodgers a quick 1-0 lead. Manny would go on to hit 3-for-4 with two RBI.

“It looked like Manny was thinking line drive tonight,” Torre said after the game. “I thought his swing was a lot more level, and that was important.”

“You’re not going to hold Manny down too long,” Andre Ethier said. “He’s going to figure it out and get the job done.”

As great as Manny was, Ethier was huge for the Dodgers going 3-for-5 coming up a single short of the cycle. He broke the game open in the third inning hitting a two-run homer giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

“It’s nice to be able to come through,” Ethier said downplaying his role. “If Joe puts you in a certain spot in the lineup, he’s counting on you all year to show up and step up and perform well.”

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Meanwhile Vicente Padilla pitched the best game for a Dodgers starter going seven shutout innings giving up only four hits and a walk while striking out four. He started out a bit shaky loading the bases in the first inning but mowed down the Red Birds after that.

“It looked like he was feeling his way in the first inning, but after that he was nails,” Torre said. “It’s the best we’ve seen him.”

The Dodgers would tack on another run in the fourth inning when Ronnie Belliard scored on a Rafael Furcal single and in the seventh inning when Manny singled Ethier home giving the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.

“Today from the get-go they beat us to the punch, so give them credit,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa somberly assessed. “We didn’t do anything with [Padilla].”

In the series, Albert Pujols hit .300 but only drove in one run - the run they scored in the eighth inning in tonight’s game. Matt Holliday, the insurance policy hitting behind Pujols, hit .167 with one RBI that came off his solo shot in game two.

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With most pundits predicting the Cardinals to paint the playoffs red this season, the Dodgers have shocked the baseball world despite winning the most games and having the best batting average and lowest ERA in the National League.

“We were confident coming in knowing that we had the home-field advantage and we obviously played well there,” Ethier noted.

“I’m very surpised,” Torre remarked about sweeping the Cardinals. “That second game we got a break, and guys got excited about it and really stepped up.

“We have more work to do, but to get out of the first round, it’s wonderful.”

That ethos was displayed after the final out was recorded in the muted celebration by the players on the field.

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So the team that had the two Cy Young candidates and the best player in baseball will be calling in tee times tomorrow.

The Dodgers will host game one of the NL Championship Series on Thursday with the time to be determined later against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Colorado Rockies.