NLDS Game 3: Dodgers 3, Cubs 1

And with that, the Dodgers complete a three-game sweep no one could have predicted — except, perhaps, for the most fatalistic of Cubs fans. The most curious thing that happened tonight was that Torre left Broxton in to pitch the ninth inning after he blew away Mark DeRosa — and that he DIDN’T bring Broxton in to start the eighth, when Cory Wade went back out after finishing off the seventh. What that means for Takashi Saito, who got knocked around in Game 2, isn’t immediately clear. But this is what Joe had to say after the game:

“We decided to send (Wade) out because, again, Saito the other day when he came in just looked like he was feeling for it. And I was trying to keep as many people late as I could. I was hoping that Cory could get us through the eighth. That way, I would have both of those guys (Broxton and Saito) for the ninth inning. (But) I brought Broxton in for the eighth and just watched him throw strikes. He had trouble in Chicago there the last game, and a lot of it was based on the fact he was getting behind the hitters. When he started throwing strikes — I looked up at one point and he had thrown 12 of 13 pitches for strikes — that is one of the reasons I sent him back out in the ninth.”

Meanwhile, Rick Honeycutt told our Jill Painter that he feels like “we have two closers.”

If Saito is worried about Broxton taking his job, it didn’t show in the clubhouse. Saito walked up behind Broxton as Broxton was talking to several reporters and doused him with two bottles of beer.

On to the next round. If the Brewers can somehow complete a comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Phillies — they cut it to 2-1 today — the Dodgers would open the NLCS at home on Thursday. If the Phillies win, that series will open at Citizens Bank Park.

Tonight’s lineups

Torre going with the same set every night, as it should be this time of year.

Soriano. LF
Fontenot. 2B
Lee. 1B
Ramirez. 3B
Soto. C
Edmonds. CF
DeRosa. RF
Theriot. SS
Harden. RHP

Furcal. SS
Martin. C
Ramirez. LF
Ethier. RF
Loney. 1B
Kemp. CF
DeWitt. 2B
Blake. 3B
Kuroda. RHP

The Cubs come to L.A. … and so does the Chicago weather

It’s gray and gloomy here at Dodger Stadium today, and it figures to get pretty cold after the sun goes down. The Cubs should feel right at home. But the field looks GREAT, credit to Eric Hansen and his crew. They always do a great job, but they really outdid themselves this time. The grass is lush and green and the NLDS logos along the first- and third-base lines are perfect. Press box is a tad crowded, but that’s part of the territory with the postseason. All in all, the old yard looks pretty good for its big night on the big stage. Three and a half hours to game time.

Sleepless in Chicago

This glamorous life of a baseball writer included walking out of Wrigley Field at 2 a.m. this morning, driving to a Shell station on Addison to fill up the rental car, driving back to my hotel near O’Hare, walking into my room at a quarter to three, packing, watching the last 30 minutes of some horrendous movie called Little Athens on Showtime (there was no sense sleeping for half an hour), catching a 7:05 a.m. flight, arriving in Los Angeles at 1 and driving straight to the ballpark. … No real news today other than Lou Piniella basically saying Carlos Zambrano would be his Game 5 starter if there is a Game 5 because Ryan Dempster, who walked seven guys in the opener, is in the bullpen for the rest of the series. Cubs seemed really tight in the first two games, and the once-fiery Piniella, who is rumored to have mellowed over the years, has seemed as tight as any of them whenever he has come into the interview room. That said, though, if the Dodgers don’t win Game 3, the Cubs will suddenly have new life, and I’m not sure that is something the Dodgers can afford to let happen. Zambrano actually said the pressure is now on the Dodgers. Even more amazing: Joe Torre said he agrees. Barring any breaking news, that’s it for me on this blog until tomorrow. If you happen to be at Gladstones around 8:30 tonight, I’ll be there with a couple of Cubs beat writers.

NLDS Game 2: Dodgers 10, Cubs 3

In case you were wondering, only one team in the history of baseball has dropped the first two games of a best-of-five series AT HOME and come back to win the series — Joe Torre’s 2001 Yankees, who did it against Oakland. Still, the Cubs aren’t dead yet. But they are at least on life support. And they are playing like a team that BELIEVES it is cursed. The Dodgers, meanwhile, continue to play loose and brash and to take advantage of whatever opportunities the Cubs give them — and the Cubs gave them a bunch of them tonight, committing four errors that led to five unearned runs. … The legion of Japanese reporters covering this series probably won’t get to see Kosuke Fukudome face Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3 on Saturday night. This Lou Piniella after the game when he was asked about Fukudome, who is 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the first two games: “From now on, I don’t want to hear about Fukudome anymore as far as whether he is going to play or not. I’m going to play (Mike) Fontenot and Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that’s the end of the story. The kid is struggling, and there is no sense sending him out there anymore.”

Travel plans

The Cubs consulted a sleep doctor — yes, a sleep doctor — before booking their team charter flight to Los Angeles. On that doctor’s advice, they will fly to Los Angeles TOMORROW, not tonight after the game.\
This is Lou Piniella:
“He said we should stay overnight tonight instead of travel after the ballgame … so that everybody can get their full balance of sleep as opposed to sleeping all day tomorrow and not being able to sleep the night after. We’ll see if he is right or not after the third game.”
The Dodgers, who presumably did NOT consult a sleep doctor, will fly home immediately after tonight’s game. Joe Torre said it’s because the team is going home, and that if the Dodgers had opened at home and were now flying to Chicago, they might consider doing what the Cubs are doing.

Still superstitious after all these years

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he won’t name a Game 4 starter — possibly Derek Lowe, possibly Greg Maddux, still a remote possibility of Clayton Kershaw — until he is sure there will be a Game 4. In other words, if there is a possibility the Dodgers can sweep the series, thus eliminating the need for a Game 4, Joe doesn’t want to jinx them out of it.
Torre, who is in his 27th season as a manager and his 14th postseason, actually admitted that his reticence is based largely on superstition.
“I think it’s the same thing as waiting until you’re in the playoffs before you make decisions (pertaining to the playoffs). We have (Game 4) options, obviously.”
What Torre did admit was that pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had addressed the subject with Lowe of coming back on three days’ rest and that Lowe had said he was fine with it.

NLDS Game 1: Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

The Dodgers hadn’t won a postseason series opener since Kirk Gibson’s HR in the 1988 World Series. Shoot, they had only won one postseason GAME since that ’88 Series. At least THAT monkey is off their backs. But for all the giddiness that tonight is sure to bring, the one thing that can’t be forgotten is that the Dodgers are still facing a very formidable opponent (and a heavily favored one, at that). This series is a long, long way from being over. But simply by winning the first game on the road, the Dodgers have dramatically changed the complexion of the whole thing. The pressure is now on the Cubs, who almost HAVE to win tonight before heading to Los Angeles. If the Dodgers come home with a 2-0 lead, well, we could be in for a long postseason ride here. … Wrigley Field was especially beautiful tonight, which it always is at night. They painted the tops of the dugouts, which are usually this dull white, a perfect shade of Cubs blue, which really makes them pop (I’m in the process of buying a home, so I’m learning terms like “making it pop.”).. … By the way, there was no shortage of second-guessing of Lou Piniella for sticking with Dempster long enough to give up that grand slam to Loney, which turned the game in the fifth inning. Dempster had walked seven batters to that point and had already thrown 102 pitches before Loney stepped in. Here was Lou’s answer: “He hadn’t given up a run. He pitched himself out of trouble an inning or two before. We were concerned about his pitch count, but no, we were going to let him get himself out of trouble. Invariably, when you keep putting people on, they’re going to score at times. They scored there quickly with that grand slam.” … By the way II, if the Dodgers win this series, it will mark the third time Joe Torre has beaten Lou Piniella in a playoff series, and I BELIEVE Piniella’s team has been favored in all three. The previous times were the 2000 and 2001 ALCS. The second one was the year Piniella’s Mariners won 116 regular-season games.