Dodgers win right to rest up
ST. LOUIS - Rafael Furcal shrugged his shoulders to his ears, hoping to lessen the chill from the ice bucket being dumped over his head.
Even after the endless dousings of champagne and beer from teammates, the frigid water left Furcal with a dazed-but-happy look, as if his mind was trying to comprehend what had just happened.
The same could be said about his team.
Relishing the underdog role all series, the Dodgers made quicker-than-expected work of St. Louis to sweep into the National League Championship Series for the second straight year.
Closing it out with an easy-looking 5-1 win Saturday, Los Angeles became the third team to ever sweep the Cardinals from the playoffs.
Methodical, decisive. and, yes, a bit surprising - even for them.
“To sweep the Cardinals, it just doesn’t happen,’’ Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. “I would have never guessed we would have swept them. It makes the champagne a little sweeter.’’
They’ll have plenty of time to savor it.
The NLCS doesn’t start until Thursday, giving Los Angeles a welcome break. No need to rejigger the rotation, worry about who’s going to be healthy or not. Just time to rest and look ahead to what might be while the Phillies and Rockies play in the Colorado snow in the other NL division series.
“This isn’t where we want to be,’’ Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. “Everyone’s thinking about the second plateau, then the World Series.’’
Getting to the first plateau wasn’t supposed to be this easy. St. Louis was the first team to clinch a playoff spot, sewing up the NL Central Sept. 26. The Cardinals had the high-profile pitching staff, anchored by Cy Young front-runners Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and bashers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of their lineup.
St. Louis also had beaten the Dodgers five of seven times this season, 14 of the last 17 in St. Louis.
The Dodgers? They had to leave the champagne on ice for six games before clinching the NL West. Their pitching staff was void of an ace, filled with guys will little playoff experience. Their best hitter, Manny Ramirez, was stuck in a late-season funk.
The enigmatic slugger served a 50-game drug suspension, had a decent stretch when he came back, then went 5 for 31 to close out the season with no homers after Sept. 18. Ramirez wasn’t much of a factor in the first two games, going 1 for 8, then broke out with three hits and two RBIs in Game 3.
Not bad for a bunch of guys who weren’t supposed to have much of a chance.
“If ignorance is indeed bliss, then you’re looking at some blissful people,’’ Dodgers pitcher Randy Wolf said.
“They didn’t know they were supposed to lose.’’