Clutch Hitting Carried the Day for L.A.

The pitching was sharp, the defense was solid, but it was clutch hitting that sent the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series. The next step in their journey will start Thursday, when they open the best-of-seven National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium. They will face either the Philadelphia Phillies or Colorado Rockies, who are tied 1-1 in their series.

First the Dodgers pulled out Game 2 of their NL Division Series against the Cardinals by having their last five batters reach base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

That mentality seemed to carry over into Game 3 on Saturday at St. Louis. All five Dodgers runs came home with two outs, as three players delivered.

Manny Ramirez had two-out RBI hits in the first and seventh inning. Andre Ethier hit a two-out, two-run homer in the third. A rejuvenated Rafael Furcal had a two-out RBI single in the fourth.

Of course, all that clutch hitting came after the Cardinals had burned through Cy Young Award candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

"I think our confidence just went up after the way we played at home, beating two of the best pitchers in the game," Ethier said. "When you have that confidence going, and we jumped out on them there in the first inning (Saturday), it really let them know we were here to play."

In the seventh inning, the Dodgers had Ethier, Ramirez and James Loney deliver three consecutive hits with two outs.

"I guess that's why we're a good team," Loney said. "Guys want to be up there in a situation to get the job done."

Dodgers, Mets Controversy
The New York Mets claim that Jose Reyes's continuing hamstring problems are due to some extent because the Dodgers' doctor diagnosis didn't report a partial tear to a hamstring tendon. Reyes had been examined in Los Angeles after the initial injury.

The point was brought up by Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, while discussing the the large number of injuries the Mets sustained this season, claiming the Dodgers doctor had having misread Reyes's leg issues.

When contacted by The New York Times, the Dodgers issued a statement that said that "the Mets have official documentation showing that the correct diagnosis of Mr. Reyes was made here in Los Angeles in May."

The tentative NLCS schedule:

Thursday, Oct. 15: Rockies/Phillies at Dodgers
Friday, Oct. 16: Rockies/Phillies at Dodgers
Saturday, Oct. 17: open
Sunday, Oct. 18: Dodgers at Rockies/Phillies
Monday, Oct. 19: Dodgers at Rockies/Phillies
Tuesday, Oct. 20: open
Wednesday, Oct. 21: Dodgers at Rockies/Phillies (if necessary)
Thursday, Oct. 22: open
Friday, Oct. 23: Rockies/Phillies at Dodgers (if necessary)
Saturday, Oct. 24: Rockies/Phillies at Dodgers (if necessary)
--The sweep was important because the Dodgers were not interested in facing Chris Carpenter and perhaps Adam Wainright if the series had gone five games. Beating those pitchers once is a remarkable accomplishment. Beating them twice would have been doable, but something all together different.

--RF Andre Ethier delivered a postseason-career-high three hits Saturday. It was his third multi-hit postseason game, two of which came in the division series against the Cardinals. He had three RBIs in the last two games of the series after not driving in a run in his first 37 postseason at-bats over 11 games.

--LF Matt Kemp was the only Dodgers player who went quietly in Game 3 of the NL Division Series. Kemp struck out in each of his last four trips to the plate Saturday. His day started off well with a first-inning, infield single, and he scored on Manny Ramirez's two-out double.

---LHP Clayton Kershaw, 21, looked impressive in his first playoff start. He gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the NL Division Series, but he was still outpitched by the Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright, who gave up one run in eight innings. Kershaw kept the damage to a minimum despite giving up nine hits.

--SS Rafael Furcal hit .429 the final two weeks of the regular season, raising his average from .255 to .269, and reaching base in each of the final 24 games. In the NLDS, Furcal got at least a hit in all three games, going 6-for-12 with two runs scored and two RBIs. He was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the Dodgers series-clinching win.

--Joe Torre might have been with the enemy, but he received another huge ovation when he was introduced before Game 3. He also was received warmly before this year's All-Star Game, which was played in St. Louis. Torre played six seasons (1969-74) with the Cardinals and managed the team for another six (1990-95) and considers the city a second hometown.

"This is a very special town and these fans have always been great," Torre said. "I know from opposing players when I was managing here, they just looked forward to coming here."

BY THE NUMBERS: 500 -- The batting average for both leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal and No. 3 hitter Andre Ethier in the three-game National League Division Series. Both went 6-for-12, and they combined to walk five times.

QUOTE TO NOTE I --"It's a big deal for me to help this team win, and it's a big deal to me to be a part of this. The Dodgers have treated me really well since I've been here. The most important thing that has happened is that they have treated me like part of the family." -- RHP Vicente Padilla, who was released by the Rangers in August, on pitching seven scoreless innings to help the Dodgers win the NL Division Series in his playoff debut.

QUOTE TO NOTE II -- Jon Weisman, in his "Dodgers Thoughts" blog in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "The Best fans in baseball left early," pointed out I'm not saying that to throw stones from this here glass house, nor to go off on a tangent from tonight's celebration. Just reiterating the same point that I've tried to make for years.  Fans leave early at every ballpark, but only Dodger fans get grief for it."

--LF Manny Ramirez had three hits Saturday, the eighth time he has had at least three hits in a postseason game. He has two four-hit games. It was also his 30th career multi-hit game in the playoffs, 12 of which have come in division series play. His two RBIs Saturday gave him 32 in division series play, one shy of Bernie Williams' record.

--RHP Vicente Padilla didn't give up a run over seven innings Saturday, the only starter in the division series against the Cardinals that had a scoreless outing. Padilla's performance outshined those of Cy Young Award candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. It was his first career postseason game.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda continues to make progress from a bulging disk in his neck and is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Tuesday. Kuroda, who was not on the Dodgers' NL Division Series roster, had a 20-pitch bullpen session Friday and will have 35-pitch session Sunday.

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