Andre Ethier belted a two-run homer and Vincente Padilla pitched seven shutout innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat St Louis 5-1 to sweep their first round playoff series.
Manny Ramirez broke his long slump by knocking in two runs for the Dodgers, who won the best-of-five series 3-0 and advanced to the National League championship series for the second consecutive year.
Padilla was thrown into the Dodgers starting mix after Japan’s Hiroki Kuroda suffered an injury. The 32-year-old former Texas Ranger struck out four and allowed four hits with one walk.
He fashioned a 4-0 record in eight starts for the Dodgers in the regular season.
Ramirez helped Los Angeles get out to a quick start with a double in the first inning that scored Matt Kemp and made it 1-0 in front of a crowd of 47,296 at Busch Stadium.
Two innings later, Ethier smashed his two-out, two-run shot on a 3-1 count over the right outfield wall to give the Dodgers a three-run cushion.
Los Angeles will start the next series at home on Thursday against either defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies or the Colorado Rockies.
The Dodgers are in search of their first championship since 1988.
“We beat a very good team, and we won the two games that [Cardinals pitchers Chris] Carpenter and [Adam] Wainwright pitched, which certainly did a lot for our personality and our confidence,” Torre said. “[Ethier] is remarkable.”
St Louis was scrambling to keep their hopes alive on Saturday but they couldn’t muster much scoring.
Albert Pujols had two hits in the game and finished a disappointing three-for-10 in the series with no extra-base hits and one run driven in.
The Cardinals ended their season with 11 losses in the last 13 games, including the regular season.
St Louis pitcher Joel Pineiro failed to rally the troops, allowing four runs on seven hits. He left after the four innings.
“More than anything else, [Pineiro] had quite a few pitches he got up,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
“It’s a tough way for him to pitch, a lot of balls that did damage that were up, and it was just one of those things,” he said. “We didn’t do anything with their guys. He pitched well.”
Meanwhile, snow forced the postponement of Saturday’s other scheduled playoff game between Philadelphia and Colorado to yesterday, prompting a switch in pitchers for the Phillies.
Pedro Martinez, the 37-year-old veteran hurler who has not made a playoff start in five years, will be replaced by rookie left-hander J.A. Happ for the Phillies, reigning World Series champions, against the Rockies’ Jason Hammel.
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