Same Song, Second Verse, Same Score 8-3

After being bludgeoned over the head by five home run balls in game one, the Dodgers were sort of nibbled to death by ducks in the second game, allowing the bottom three position players in the batting lineup to collect eight hits and five runs batted in, but the result was the same: an 8-3 loss and a really long and hard road back to reach the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers got three solo home runs -- from Jayson Werth, Shawn Green and Milton Bradley -- their most in a playoff game since the 1978 World Series. But they put 10 other runners on base, seven by walk, without scoring any of them.

Jeff Weaver failed to survive the fifth, giving up six runs and eight hits on 90 pitches before leaving. He allowed three in the second to erase a 1-0 Dodger lead gained on Werth's home run. He also allowed three in the fifth after back-to-back homers by Shawn Green and Milton Bradley had tied the game 3-3.

The Cardinal bullpen then put the clamps on the Dodgers, allowing only two more hits over the final 5.1 innings. Bradley slugged a ground rule double in the fifth and Brent Mayne singled in the ninth. Ten L.A. hitters went down in order during that arid stretch.

Wilson Alvarez and Giovanni Carrara each allowed a run in relief to ring up the final 8-3 score. Eric Gagné, who hadn't pitched since September 30, got in some work in a scoreless ninth, walking one and striking out a pair.

After Werth put the Dodgers in front for the first time in the series, Edgar Renteria lined a ball to right that Bradley attempted to shoestring. The ball scooted under his glove and Renteria ended up on second. Reggie Sanders beat out a bunt to put men on first and third.

Weaver attempted to hold Sanders close to first but his throw was into the runner and Green was unable to hold it, the ball glancing out of his glove. Renteria scored and Sanders moved to second. Weaver drew the error but it should have been credited to Green.

Weaver then got a pair of outs before Tony Womak tripled over Bradley's head and scored on a Larry Walker double for a 3-0 lead.

Green and Bradley led off the fourth with back-to-back shots into the right field seats, then 15-game winner Jason Marquis walked David Ross, Cesar Izturis and Werth.

Steve Finley, sporting a lifetime .375 average with runners in scoring position, fouled off a fastball, then missed a high fastball, clipping it back into the screen. He then sent an easy fly to center to end not only the chances of breaking the game open, but the inning, the Dodgers' offense for the evening and perhaps the playoff series.

Weaver gave up three runs in the fifth and the Cardinals broke a 3-3 tie to take the lead for good. With one out and only one run in, Renteria scorched a shot to second base. Alex Cora attempted to sidesaddle the ball but is blistered right by him to keep the inning alive.

It was a double play ball that was not to be and although it was charitably ruled a hit, it was an error in any other league at any other time in the free world.

The Cardinals' first five hitters in the lineup were 3-for-20 with two RBI and the fourth and fifth hitters, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, went hitless in eight at-bats and struck out five times.

But the three hitters that followed in the lineup — Edgar Renteria, Reggie Sanders and Mike Matheny — were 8-for-10 with five runs scored and five runs batted in. Matheny, the No. 8 hitter with a career .239 average, drove in four runs.

Over the two games, St. Louis has scored 13 of their 16 runs with two out.

Just one loss from their third consecutive playoff sweep. Jose Lima will be the man of the hour, hoping to stop a team that has recognized the Dodgers' weakness -- starting pitching -- and have relentlessly exploited it.

A National League team has never come back from an 0-2 deficit since division series play started in 1995. Four American League teams have done so, including last year's Boston Red Sox against the Oakland Athletics.

In the 1981 split season, however, the Dodgers lost the first two games of the NL West championship series against the Houston Astros, then won the next three. But that team also fell behind the Montreal Expos two games to won and won the pennant, then won the World Series after -- you guessed it -- losing the first two games to the Yankees.

When the General Manager Paul DePodesta sacrificed All-Star catcher Paul Lo Duca and reliever Guillermo Mota in the July trade realized what was needed in order to succeed in the playoffs. Results so far demonstrate --painfully so for those who deplored the trade -- that DePodesta had the right idea.

"The season's not over," Werth said. "We still have some magic left in this team."

We all find out Saturday if it is Lima Time or winter time.