ST. LOUIS --- Unemployed in August, Vicente Padilla kept the Los Angeles Dodgers going in October.
The second-chance pitcher shut down Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals with a 5-1 win Saturday night, putting the Dodgers back in the National League Championship Series.
"Anytime you win a series it's good," Casey Blake said. "But to sweep the Cardinals, it just doesn't happen. I would have never guessed we would have swept them."
Andre Ethier missed the cycle by a single, Manny Ramirez had three hits and two RBI and the Dodgers didn't need help this time from another St. Louis fielding blunder to sweep their division series opponent for a second season in a row. Los Angeles scored all five runs with two outs.
Pujols and Matt Holliday were a combined 2 for 8 with a late RBI for the Cardinals, who never recharged after becoming the first National League team to clinch a division title.
St. Louis was 1-9 after wrapping up the NL Central, and it was swept for the first time in the division series or NLCS play and only for the third time overall in the postseason.
"From the get-go, they beat us to the punch all night," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So give them credit."
Pujols, 3 for 10 with an RBI and no extra-base hits in the series, left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters.
Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, a Burke County graduate, struck out Rick Ankiel for the last out and pumped his fist as his teammates ran out to the mound to celebrate becoming the first team to advance to the championship series. They await the winner of the Philadelpia-Colorado series. The Phillies beat Los Angeles in the NLCS last season in five games.
Padilla, designated for assignment by the Rangers in early August, shut down the Cardinals on four hits over seven innings in his first career postseason appearance.
"Big lineup," Padilla said through an interpreter. "I just tried to make the pitches that I knew I capable of throwing."
The Dodgers were up 3-0 in the third inning when starter Joel Pineiro dropped Pujols' simple toss at first for an error on James Loney's grounder for the lifeless Cardinals, who were beset by bad play this series.
Ramirez, only 1 for 8 the first two games amid suggestions by manager Joe Torre that he was trying too hard, gave the Dodgers the early lead with a two-out RBI double in the first.
Ethier, who had only one homer in the last 12 games of the regular season, jumped on a 3-1 pitch for a two-run shot that made it 3-0 in the third. It was his second homer of the series.
Ronnie Belliard singled to start the fourth, stole second and scored on Rafael Furcal's single for a 4-0 cushion.
That was more than enough for the Dodgers, who were 2-5 against the Cardinals during the regular season with all the games played when St. Louis was its best.
LOS ANGELES VS. ST. LOUIS
GAME 1: Dodgers 5, Cardinals 3
GAME 2: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2
GAME 3: Dodgers 5, Cardinals 1