L.A. back in NLCS

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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, putting the Los Angeles Dodgers back in the National League championship series with a 5-1 victory tonight.

Andre Ethier missed the cycle by a single, Manny Ramirez had three hits and two RBIs and the Dodgers didn't need help from another Cardinals fielding blunder to sweep their division series opponent for a second straight season.

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 was swept for the first time in the division series or NLCS play and only for the third time overall in the postseason.

Padilla, designated for assignment by the Rangers in early August, was 4-0 the final month with the Dodgers before shutting down the Cardinals on four hits over seven innings in his first career postseason appearance. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning he was dominant, retiring 19 of 21 hitters against a team he last faced in 2003.

The Dodgers were already up 3-0 in the third inning when starter Joel Pineiro dropped Pujols' simple toss at first for an error on Jame Loney's grounder for the lifeless Cardinals.

Holliday, who dropped a fly ball for what would have been the final out of Game 2, got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 47,296 before his first at-bat with two men on and one out in the first. Then he tapped out to the mound. Pfft.

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 gams 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.


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