After taking the midnight train to get here, the Stew is live and in blogging color for Game 3 of the NLDS. Check back for updates as events warrant.
ST. LOUIS — First, they poured champaign. And when they ran out of champagne, they poured beer. And when the beer ran dry they poured ice water. When that left them cold, the Dodgers reached deep into the fridge and started pouring milk, gallons of it, over each other's heads.
Getting drenched every way they knew how, the Dodgers celebrated a first-round playoff sweep for the second straight season, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on a frosty Saturday night.
In the most one-sided game of the series, Vicente Padilla(notes) continued as one of the season's great late-season bargains for general manager Ned Colletti, throwing seven shutout innings against a Cardinals team that went 4-for-30 (.133) with runners in scoring position. Jonathan Broxton struck out pinch hitter Rick Ankiel to end the game, which was played in front of the largest crowd (47,296) in stadium history.
But a quick run by the Dodgers in the first, and a two-run homer by Andre Ethier(notes) in the third, dampened the mood. Manny Ramirez was booed, sometimes half-heartedly, but came out of a slump — the Dodgers hope — by going 3-for-5. The fans mostly got quieter as the game went, with many leaving well before the last out.
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Bottom the Eighth II
With Broxton on the hill, Albert Pujols(notes) laces a single to right field (he's such a pro) and Julio Lugo(notes) comes around to score the Cards' first run. There's some energy here; Cards fans are standing, waving towels. They've finally been given something to get excited about.
Well, that was enough of that. Matt Holliday flies out to right. Three outs to go.
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Bottom of the Eighth
Ryan Ludwick(notes) took Manny Ramirez back to the warning track and almost the left-field fence, but ManRam collected the fly ball. That was the closest the Cards have come to scoring since the first inning.
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Unless folks at Busch Stadium are making a mad dash for the hot chocolate stand, it appears many fans are getting a jump on the traffic. It's not southern California, but it's a consideration inside the STL.
It might seem harsh to leave, but the Dodgers have it all working. In the bottom of the seventh, Yadier Molina(notes) hit a one-out double, but was out easily at third base on a grounder to short. He didn't wait to see the ball go through, he didn't get in a rundown, he was just tagged out by a country mile. The energy sucked from the stadium earlier seems to be evaporating from the players now.
Six outs to go, 5-0 Dodgers.
* * *
Matt Holliday's gonna wash this game right out of his "hair." Was that the Cardinals best shot? John Smoltz(notes) is keeping the Dodgers in check, but the Cardinals continue to get lost on the way to home plate.
Ah, spoke too soon. Triple for Andre Ethier. Just as the Cards get a little momentum, or hope for some momentum, or appear on the verge of momentum, he comes along and ruins everything.
Manny continues to sizzle with an RBI single; he's 3-for-4. It's 5-0 Dodgers, two outs in the top of the seventh. It's OK to get a beer.
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The Dodgers knew what they were getting in Vicente Padilla when they picked him up at the unemployment office, because he used to pitch for coach Larry Bowa in Philadelphia. Padilla has great stuff, of course, but can be as erratic as Midwest weather. And he might throw at your kitchen from time to time.
During the regular season, he went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA and he's continuing to be strong in the playoffs. After a rocky first — which yielded nothing because the Cardinals have not hit with RISP — he has retired 13 of 14.
John Smoltz is on for the Cardinals. As noted in the Twittersphere, he's eating innings in a playoff loss: Probably not what Smoltz thought would happen when he signed here.
The Dodgers are 12 outs from the NLCS, leading 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth.
Ludwick, Pujols and Holliday approach.
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Joel Pineiro is done. He went four innings, allowing four runs and seven hits. He seemed confident, even eager yesterday, but he might have been too pumped up; his sinker was not effective. Left-hander Dennys Reyes(notes) begins the fifth inning for the Cardinals.
The offense also is done. The Cardinals dropped to 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position after Yadier Molina grounded out and Mark DeRosa(notes) lined a comebacker to Vicente Padilla to end the fourth. It's so quiet in here, you can almost hear the Rams game tomorrow. Brett Favre's in town.
OK, Manny was just booed, but seemed more like an obligation.
Manny just whiffed. It was like that cricket video of him. Fans got excited for that.
Dodgers lead, 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth. The champagne is chillin' and so are the Dodgers.
* * *
If a crowd can make less than no noise, one is doing so at Busch Stadium right now.
After Rafael Furcal's(notes) two-out RBI single to left, L.A. has taken a 4-0 lead on the Cards in its quest for a sweep. The excitement Cardinals fans expressed before the game and in the early going, especially for Matt Holliday, has been bottled in a cone of silence. I mean, people aren't even getting all that jazzed about the free T-shirts being given away right now between innings. Free T-shirts, c'mon, St. Louis! No?
If the Cards rally in the bottom of the fourth, expect to see Pineiro replaced; Tony La Russa had the bullpen churning in the top of the inning.
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Prospects for a Game 4 in this series get dimmer and dimmer as Vicente Padilla starts piling up the outs.
Thanks to a two-run homer by Andre Ethier, the Dodgers have extended their lead to 3-0, heading to the top of the fourth. Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro is a ground ball pitcher, but L.A. seems to find the air just fine against him.
Manny Ramirez is heating up; he hit an RBI double in the first and added another double in the third.
So far Albert Pujols is 1-for-2; he just popped up to end the third.
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Well, Busch Stadium fans and Matt Holliday are cool with each other, but the Cardinals have bigger things to worry about after falling behind the Dodgers 1-0.
Thanks for the lead goes to Manny Ramirez (above), who lined a two-out RBI double against Joel Pineiro in the top of the first. It's Manny's first RBI of the playoffs.
The Cardinals, like they repeatedly have done in the series, had action on the bases in the bottom of the first against Vicente Padilla. And the Cardinals, like they repeatedly have done in the series, failed to cash in.
They're now 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position for the series after Holliday hit a weak comebacker and Yadier Molina grounded out — with the bases loaded.
Those failures sucked much of the air that had been pumped into the stadium during the reactions of fans to Holliday — who was cheered during introductions, upon his at-bat and in a funny moment after he caught a routine fly ball in the top of the first. Manager Tony La Russa got what he wanted from the fans on Holliday, but the other stuff continues to go the Dodgers way.
Before the game, La Russa announced Chris Carpenter(notes) would start on three days' rest in Game 4 on Sunday. If there is a Game 4 on Sunday. More on Carpenter later probably, although, it's getting more and more quiet as Padilla settles in.