Vincente Padilla Unlikely Starter in Game 3

It may be only a couple thousand miles between a little town in Nicaragua to St. Louis and Busch Stadium but in the mind of Vincente Padilla it must seem like light years. And to not only be on the roster of a contending club in the NLDS but the starting pitcher is, as they say in the commercial, priceless.

"I never dreamed of this," said Padilla, who will be pitching in his first playoff game in 11 major league seasons.

The right-hander was in the final year of a three-year, $33.75-millon contract with Texas but the Rangers were apparently so upset with him he was put on waivers by the team in June and when no one was interested, he was released in August.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, certainly award of the rumors that swirled around Padilla's head --a bad teammate, a headhunter -- and with a former teammate telling the media, "This was a great move, getting him out of the club house" -- he still took a chance after Hiroki Kuroda was literally knocked out of a start by a line drive to his head.

Searching for any starting pitching that was available, and realizing that it would cost only $100,000 to give him a chance, Colletti signed the 32-year-old Padilla on August 19th.

The Dodgers asked former teammate Randy Wolf if Padilla would help the club and Wolf said "I said he works hard and a change of scenery was going to be big for him. We're very laid-back and let guys do what they need to do."

It wasn't as if he was unsuccessful in Texas where he had pitched for the past four seasons. He won 15 games in 2006 and 14 more in 2008.

A quiet man, Padilla said his teammates misunderstood him in Texas. "I talk to people, but I'm not the kind of person who talks every day," he said.

The talking heads on television predicted dire results in picking up the reported malcontent but, like many other things, they were apparently wrong.

Padilla seems to have settled in comfortably into the Dodgers clubhouse, perhaps because of the other Latin players. There has been no report of a problem since his arrival.

"I feel like the Dodgers are really united as a team," Padilla said through an interpreter. "I was welcomed like a family, and I'm very glad at how they're treating me on the team. I think overall it's a great organization."

He's pitched so well in the unusual six-man tryout for the playoff rotation, he became the third-best candidate, and chosen as the third-game starter over Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland. A two-inning scoreless relief inning Sept. 30, followed by 10 strikeouts over five innings on the last day of the season against Colorado sealed the deal.

Colletti's decision to sign him has been a remarkable success. He has recorded a 4-0 record with a 3.20 earned-run average in eight games with the Dodgers, over seven starts, and has apparently revived his career.

So today, with his mother in the stands after making the long trip from Nicaragua to watch him, Padilla may move onto the unlikely list of players who have helped the Dodgers in the post-season.

Think Jose Lima.

Game Notes
Before the series with St. Louis started, former Dodger Eric Karros first baseman who's doing studio analysis during these playoffs again for Fox, was asked how he thought his old team would fare against the Cardinals. He reluctantly reported on a scale of 1-for-10, the Dodgers would be close to a 3.

"First, the law of averages say it's not very good. There are just too many things that have to fall right. But there's no team head and shoulders above everybody else in the short run.

"To me, he continued, the real X-factor for the Dodgers is shortstop Rafael Furcal. You saw last year he played well against the Cubs and the Dodgers won. He had some errors and some problems against the Phillies and the Dodgers lost. A guy like Furcal, if he's taking his walks, getting on base, creating issues, that forces pitchers to worry about him. You can't rely on guys hitting home runs consistently in the playoffs, so a guy like Furcal has a greater value."

Jon Chapper of the Dodgers Publicity Department came up with a list of Los Angeles Dodgers game-ending hits in the postseason:

  9/29/59 – Game 2 of 1959 Tiebreaker Playoff for NL Pennant vs. Milwaukee Braves: Carl Furillo singled to shortstop, Gil Hodges scored an unearned run on Mantilla error.

10/7/78 – Game 4 1978 NLCS vs. Philadelphia: Bill Russell singled to center, Ron Cey scored an unearned run.

10/15/88 – Game 1 1988 World Series vs. Oakland: Kirk Gibson two-run homer.

10/8/09 – Game 2 NLDS vs. St. Louis: Mark Loretta singles to center field, Casey Blake scores an unearned run.

2-0 Leads
The Dodgers today are looking for a 2-0 series advantage in a postseason series for the eighth time since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1958 season.  The Dodgers went on to win five of their seven series with a 2-0 lead.  

A list of the previous 2-0 series advantages:  

Year Series          Opponent    Outcome
2008 Division Series  Cubs       Won, 3-0
1988 World Series*    Athletics  Won, 4-1
1985 NLCS*            Cardinals  Lost, 2-4
1978 World Series*    Yankees    Lost, 2-4
1978 NLCS             Phillies   Won, 3-1
1974 NLCS             Pirates    Won, 3-1        
1963 World Series     Yankees    Won, 4-0
1956 World Series*    Yankees    Lost, 3-4
 *series started at home
Dodger Blue Notes-- Clayton Kershaw admitted to feeling some discomfort in the right shoulder he separated early last month. The left- hander felt something after grounding out in Thursday's game. He is not expected to miss a start if the Dodgers advance to the NLCS. ...Casey Blake is still getting accolades for his nine-pitch walk with three foul balls, just before Belliard's game-tying hit. He eventually scored the winning run and took grief from teammates because he fell down behind home plate immediately after scoring. "Casey Blake had an amazing at-bat, an amazing at-bat," Torre said. "The hero of this game was Casey Blake," Belliard said. Furcal added "The at-bat by Casey Blake is the at-bat that won the game." he said. ...Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Wainwright's wasted effort. "He had very little to work with. He made quality pitch after quality pitch. It's about as tough a loss as you can have, except that we still have an opportunity to play (Game 3) Saturday." La Russa knows disappointment. The last time the Dodgers had a walkoff hit in postseason play was in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the Oakland A's when Kirk Gibson hit a two-run home run off Dennis Eckersley. La Russa was Oakland's manager at the time. ...Orlando Hudson's demotion to the bench is apparently for the rest of the postseason and he is taking the painful decision with the same class exhibited when Manny Ramirez returned. "We've talked about it," Hudson said "I'm all right, I'm all right. I know I had a great year; I know what I've done here. I'll do whatever they need me to do." He has kept offering his replacement, Ron Belliard, words of encouragement. ...Chad Billingsley feels he has corrected a mechanical flaw that came up around the time of the All-Star break. He said he feels as if he's regaining whatever it was that made him an All-Star. Torre is considering him for the No. 4 start if needed. ...Detroit first base and outfield coach Andy Van Slyke, father of Dodgers' minor league outfielder Scott Van Slyke will not be returning to the Tigers. The team announced Van Slyke "decided to pursue other opportunities" and will not come back next season." ...The Marlins released RHP Scott Proctor. ...And finally, the Dodgers have announced that they have a limited number of home game tickets for the NLCS games at Dodger Stadium. Hopefully, they will not only be purchased, but also used.  

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