Dodgers Pull Off an Improbable Sweep

In a night filled with baseball heros, Jonathan Broxton crafted a sparkling save, retiring the side in the eighth with the tying run at the plate and then emphatically nailing down the Dodgers first post-season sweep since 1963 by retiring the Cubs in the ninth to seal a 3-1 win and an unbelievable third straight win over a club that led the major league with 97 wins during the regular season.

Just over a month ago the Dodgers were attempting to shake off an eight game losing streak and their three wins over Chicago in the National League Division Series takes them from what appeared to be the NL West outhouse to the NL West penthouse, moving into the National League Championship Series against either the Phillies or the Brewers starting Thursday.

If Milwaukee wins the Dodgers will open at home. If the Phillies win, they will host Los Angeles in the first game of the seven-game series.

Starter Hiroki Kuroda, who in 11 professional seasons in Japan had never been on a post-season winner, worked six gutty innings, holding the Cubs to 6 hits and stranded six. He is the first rookie to clinch a postseason for the Dodgers since Fernando Valenzuela worked his magic in 1981.

James Loney doubled into the right field corner to knock in two first inning runs off Chicago starter Rich Harden. Including the grand slam home run in the first game, it gives Loney six in the series and nine in his post-season career, both Dodgers records. With only three hits, he became the most productive .214 hitter in Dodger post-season history.

Russell Martin doubled twice and knocked in a run, finishing the series with four hits, three doubles and a triple, plus five runs batted in.

Manny Ramirez singled once in two trips to the plate and was walked intentionally twice. He used his legs to score from first base on Loney's double in the first inning, neatly slapping the plate as he swept across it.

Cory Wade made his third appearance in the series and got Kuroda and the Dodgers out of a two-on, one out mess in the seventh before tiring and allowing the only Chicago run of the game.

Dodgers pitching was superb throughout the NLDC, holding the slugging Cubs to six runs while the offense provided 20. The top three in the L.A. lineup, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin and Manny Ramirez, were 13 for-35 (.371), while the top two in the Chicago lineup were 2-for-26 (.080).

Kuroda struggled early in the game but pounded the strike zone, getting the first strike on 20 of 26 Cubs he faced. He retired the first 11 on ground ball before getting his first strikeout. He had 13 ground outs and only two fly ball outs in his 6.2 innings. He tired after 101 pitches (67 of them strikes) but didn't allow a run.

A jam-packed Dodger Stadium rocked from the first pitch and shook Chavez Ravine when Broxton struck out Alfonso Soriano for the final out of the game.

This night no on went home early.

The Cubs put two on in the first when Derrek Lee doubled and Arimis Ramirez walked but Kuroda, who had given up first inning runs in 18 of is previous 31 starts stranded both runners.

In the bottom of the first and with one out, Martin doubled down the left field line, the ball stopping at the infield tarp. Manny Raminez singled to left and Martin, who had to hold up to see if the shortstop could reach the ball, just made it in under the tag at third.

Andre Ethier struck out on a forkball in the dirt but James Loney lined a shot into the right field corner, Martin scoring easily and Ramirez raced all the way from first, sliding into the plate as the ball was up the third base line.

Los Angeles scored 121 first inning runs during the season, second only to the NY Mets in all of Major League Baseball.

The Cubs threatened in the third, collecting a pair of two-out singles and Giovanni Soto doubled to lead off the fourth but Kuroda masterfully shut them down each time.

Los Angeles seemed to have something going in the third when Rafael Furcal opened with a single to center. A wild pickoff throw moved him to second and Ramirez was walked intentionally. Ethier's long fly allowed Furcal to move to third and Manny tagged and moved into second base. Loney flew to center to end the inning.

The Dodgers picked up another run in the fifth for a 3-0 lead and drove out Harden, who had allowed two runs or less in 22 of his 25 starts.

Furcal walked with one out and Martin laced his second double of the game and his third of the series, into the left-field corner as Furcal scored from first. Ramirez was again walked intentionally.

The Cubs called on lefty Sean Marshall and he retired both Ethier and Loney again with runners on base.

Marshall gave up a double to Blake DeWitt in the seventh and manager Lou Piniella brought in Carlos Marmol to face Casey Blake. Blake's ground ball moved DeWitt to third and with Jeff Kent in the on-deck circle, but Torre allowed Kuroda to hit for himself. He fanned to end the inning.

Kuroda got stronger as the game went along, After allowing Ramirez's double in the fourth he retired nine in succession, working around an intentional walk.

In the seventh, he nailed the first Cub before Theriot beat out an infield hit that Furcal knocked down but couldn't handle. Then Kuroda faced former Japanese teammate Kosuke Fukudome who had come in on a double-switch and collected his first hit of the series and suddenly Chicago had the tying run at the plate.

That was all for Kuroda and Cory Wade took over, retiring Alfonso Soriano on a fly to right field on the first pitch for the second out. Then Matt Kemp ran down a long line drive to center field, making an over the head catch to end the threat.

Lee doubled to lead off the eighth for the Cubs, his second double and third hit of the game, but Wade struck out Ramirez and popped Soto up. With two out, pinch-hitter Daryl Ward hit a soft single to center to drive in Lee with the first Chicago run.

Jonathan Broxton came out of the bullpen to face Mark DeRosa who had smacked a two-run homer in the first game to give the Cubs their only lead of the series. Broxton, his fastball reaching 99 mph, struck him out with a curve. Broxton then bettered himself, hitting 101 in the ninth and retiring the side in order, two by strike outs.

The Dodgers celebrated for a short time in the clubhouse and then came back onto the field to share with the fans. Martin and Kemp leaped into the right field pavilion to high-five everyone in sight.

Manager Joe Torre, when asked about how he got the team out of their eight-game losing streak and into the playoffs, he said it was the team that did it. "I just told them to face the fact that they had to do something about it or the season would melt away."

He pointed out the pressure the Cubs were under trying to shed themselves of the "no pennant in 100 years" that was around their necks. "I think it was to our advantage to open the series there," he said.

Torre later took the field microphone and thanked the fans for their remarkable support.

"Dodger fans, you are very special," he said. "The way you supported us all year when we struggled, when we couldn't get out of our own way -- I can't tell you how much we appreciate it. Just don't go away, we'll be back next week, because we still have eight more games to win."

And on this night, who would doubt Joe Torre?.

 Score by innings
Chicago	        000 000 100-1
Los Angeles	200 010 00x-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  1  1  0  .333
Martin c	4  1  2  1  .308
Ramirez lf	2  1  1  0  .500
Ethier rf	4  0  0  0  .100
Loney 1b	4  0  1  2  .214
Kemp cf	        4  0  0  0  .154
DeWitt 2b	3  0  1  0  .273
 Berroa 2b	0  0  0  0 1.000
Blake 3b	3  0  0  0  .273
Kuroda p	3  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	30 3 6 3
  Chicago	35 1 8 1

 Two base hits- Martin (2), Loney (1), DeWitt (2). 
RBI- Loney 2 (6), Martin (5). LOB- Los Angeles 6, 
Chicago 9. 

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (1-0)	6.1  6  0-0  2  4  0.00
Wade        	1.1  2  1-1  0  1  2.45
Broxton (sv 1)	1.1  0  0-0  0  3  0.00
 WP- Wade. T- 3:03. Att- 56,000.
Dodger Blue Notes --James Loney has appeared in four NLDS games in his career and has a hit in each, batting .333 (6-for-18) with one homer and a Dodger-record nine RBI. He went 3-for-4 in Game 3 of the NLDS vs. New York at Dodger Stadium in 2006. ...Manny Ramirez has hit safely in 38 of his last 43 postseason games, with a .352 (56-for-161) average during that span. ...The Dodgers were 23-9 (.719) at Dodger Stadium after the All-Star break for the best home record in the Majors in that span. The .719 winning percentage at home in the second half was the club's second-best since coming to Los Angeles behind only the 1991 squad that went 29-11 (.725) at home after the break. ...The Dodgers walked just 6 batters in the three games of the NLDS. During the regular season, the team issued 480 free passes, the second-lowest total in the NL behind Arizona (451). Los Angeles allowed a Major League-low 123 home runs during the regular season.Throwing out the ceremonial first pitches was a pair of Dodger World Champions. Don Newcombe, the only person in MLB history to win a Cy Young Award, MVP, and Rookie of the Year Award, won the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955. Duke Snider, the franchise's all-time home run leader, won World Championships with the Dodgers in 1955 and 1959. ...Since Aug. 30 when the Dodgers started an eight-game winning streak, the team has posted a 21-8 (.724) record, including their two victories in the NLDS. That ties them with the Phillies for the best winning percentage in Major League Baseball during that period. ...The Dodgers have played 11 best-of-five series in their postseason history and have won the first two games in just two of those series. In both cases, the Dodgers went on to win the series (the NLCS in 1974 and 1978).

THIS DATE IN DODGER HISTORY --It was appropriate that on this date in 1955, Johnny Podres defeated the Yankees, 2-0 in Game 7 of the World Series for the franchise's first and only championship in Brooklyn. Four years later on this date in 1959, the Dodgers beat the White Sox, 3-1 in the first World Series game ever played in Los Angeles before the first of three consecutive 90,000-plus crowds at the Coliseum.  

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