SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Ned Colletti recalls several nerve-racking days after he dealt for Greg Maddux at the deadline, emotions to be expected after pulling off such a blockbuster trade.
The Dodgers’ rookie general manager had only spoken to the 300-game winner by phone.
Two months later, Maddux pitched Los Angeles back into the playoffs, a key second-half piece on a remade roster put together to bring this franchise back to respectability after an awful 2005.
That deal for Mad Dog sure did pan out.
“I wasn’t with the team when we made the trade and I didn’t come back for about a week,” Colletti said, drenched from a champagne dousing in the raucous visitor’s clubhouse. “The first time I felt good was when he walked into my office. That was the first time I was able to calm down.”
Maddux was among the first to make his way into the clubhouse for a wild postgame party of champagne and beer after the Dodgers danced on the mound, celebrating in their archrivals’ ballpark.
“That’s the greatest thing that can happen to you,” said Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, who guided the Dodgers to eight NL West championships in 20 years before stepping down in 1996 following a heart attack.
“If you’re going to cinch it, you want to cinch it against the San Francisco Giants,” he said. “That’s why this is sweeter than ever. … Everybody in Los Angeles thought we weren’t going to amount to anything.”
Who could blame the fans considering what the Dodgers did last year?
After winning the NL West in 2004, Los Angeles went 71-91 in 2005, among the worst seasons in franchise history.
Los Angeles and San Diego head into the season’s final day tied for the division lead. The Dodgers’ victory ensured them and first-year manager Grady Little at least the wild card—the rest of the NL playoff picture was still to be sorted out. The Padres hold the tiebreaker for the West based on head-to-head record.
It was fitting that Maddux (15-14) had much to do with the Dodgers’ return to the playoffs. They acquired the 40-year-old from the Chicago Cubs on July 31 to give them a veteran arm for the stretch run—and he won six games in Dodger Blue.
“It feels great,” Maddux said. “I had a great time in Chicago. I’m glad I got traded to Los Angeles, so it’s been a very good year for me personally. Hopefully it’ll get better. I wasn’t expecting to be in the playoffs until I got traded.”
Los Angeles, which led the NL West from Aug. 10 to Sept. 16, had its share of dramatic wins to get to this point—including a 4-3 victory in Friday night’s series opener.
Colletti left his job as assistant GM of the rival Giants and overhauled the Dodgers last winter, hiring Little to replace Jim Tracy.
“It started off with a complete change from top to bottom,” said pitcher Derek Lowe, set to be the Game 1 playoff starter. “We spent money in the right places. I give them credit. In spring training they told us that throughout the year they were going to get it right and make changes.”
Lugo doubled in a run in the third before Niekro’s solo homer leading off the fourth. J.D. Drew doubled in a run in the Los Angeles fifth.
Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra missed the game after re-injuring his left side on a swinging strikeout in the eighth inning Friday.
Last season marked the Dodgers’ second-worst finish since moving west from Brooklyn in 1958.
“I’m glad that it happened the way it did,” Little said.
“I’ve always wanted to be in position to get back to the World Series, and we have that here,” said Kent, who played in the 2002 World Series for San Francisco. “It’s been an emotional roller-coaster for us this year, all of the winning and losing streaks and personnel changes. It has been gratifying everyone has been able to maintain it without the boat tipping over.”
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Colletti said. “I’m glad we won, but we are just getting going. We’ve got a long way to go to get where we want to be.”
Maddux allowed three hits and two runs, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter in seven strong innings. Takashi Saito finished for his 24th save in 26 chances.
Los Angeles reached the playoffs despite not having closer Eric Gagne for most of the year. He has spent two stints on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove a nerve in his elbow and also an operation on his back.
Cain (13-12) allowed nine hits and four runs, struck out four and walked two in 5 2-3 innings.
“It’s well deserved,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said of the Dodgers. “We have to accept the truth that they were better.”
Giants C Eliezer Alfonzo left in the fourth with dizziness after getting hit by a foul tip. … Los Angeles has won four straight in the rivalry. … The Dodgers set a franchise record for doubles in a season with 305. The 1930 Brooklyn Dodgers hit 303 doubles. … LHP Eric Stults will start Sunday for the Dodgers.