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5 Game 3 | Mets win best-of-five series, 3-0

Swept Off Their Feats

Dodgers overcome 4-0 deficit, then bullpen fails in another short postseason

October 08, 2006|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

The sting of a dispiriting National League Division Series sweep eventually will subside, and the Dodgers will be left to contemplate this sea change season, the future sparkling with the promise of becoming more than first-round fodder for a potent opponent.

Until then, though, the memories will be as jagged as the barroom glass that sidelined pitcher Joe Beimel, as painful as the torn thigh muscle that rendered Nomar Garciaparra a bit player, as disorienting as the sight of Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew getting tagged out at home plate on the same play.

The Dodgers took the field Saturday night dragging the weight of all that and more, then added to their woes for nearly four hours in a 9-5 loss to the New York Mets in front of a boisterous sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium.

"We were hot coming into the playoffs," catcher Russell Martin said. "We'd won seven straight games. But we didn't play seven games against the Mets. The playoffs is a totally different mind-set."

Misery began early, with starter Greg Maddux getting banged around for three runs in the first inning and departing after four.

It continued after the Dodgers took a 5-4 lead in the fifth, primarily on the efforts of Kent, who homered, doubled and singled twice to finish with a team division series-record eight hits. Rookie Jonathan Broxton -- one of the few relievers Manager Grady Little felt he could count on -- was victimized by broken bats, bloops and bleeders in a three-run sixth that put the Mets ahead for good.

"That sixth inning was a cloud for us all year," Little said. "When you take a lead, it's important to get the next three outs and get back to the dugout to hit again. But we couldn't stop the bleeding."

More Mets hits in the last innings produced two runs, and a string of Dodgers hits produced none. The Dodgers had 16 hits, left 13 runners on base and departed for the winter gnashing their teeth over their ill-fated decisions, wasted opportunities and rotten luck.

"They had fortune on their side," Kent said. "I think we played better baseball, they just had more luck. We had 16 hits and, what, five runs? You shake your head and wonder why."

The Dodgers hoped to ride Maddux until at least the seventh inning. Instead, the Mets put the whip to him early, scoring three runs in the first on five consecutive hits, the last four with two out.

The damage could have been worse. Paul Lo Duca tried to advance from first to third on a single by Carlos Beltran early in the inning, but was thrown out. The third out came on a leaping catch by first baseman James Loney on a drive by Jose Valentin that would have brought home two more runs had it cleared Loney's mitt.

The Mets extended the lead to 4-0 in the third when left-handed hitters Cliff Floyd and Shawn Green -- who each had opposite-field hits in the first inning -- took Maddux pitches to left field again. Green's double off the top of the wall was played poorly by Marlon Anderson, enabling Floyd to limp home despite suffering an Achilles' injury that forced him to leave the game.

As soon as Dodgers bats showed their first signs of life, Little began making moves. Singles by Kent, Martin and Wilson Betemit loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and Loney drove in two runs with a single to the gap in left-center, bringing up Maddux's spot.

Slumping rookie Andre Ethier was called upon, and Mets Manager Willie Randolph summoned left-hander Darren Oliver even though Ethier batted .351 against lefties during the regular season. Ethier lined to Oliver, who doubled Betemit off third, leaving the Mets ahead, 4-2.

The Dodgers took their short-lived lead in the fifth. Kent followed Anderson's two-out single with a home run to tie the score, Drew and Martin singled, and Betemit walked, loading the bases again for Loney, who walked to force in Drew.

Before the game, Little said he would send Garciaparra and his torn left thigh muscle to the plate only in the ninth inning with the game on the line. But this was a chance to break the game open, and Garciaparra pinch-hit for reliever Mark Hendrickson. He hit a harmless comebacker, however, and the slim lead was soon gone.

Afterward, the Dodgers spoke of frustration over missed chances, but the gloom vanished when talk turned to the promise of next season.

"We had veterans step up and have great years, we had rookies step up and win jobs," Kent said. "We've gotten all that and won at the same time. You can be hard on the team right now, but the future is bright."

Kent, who is under contract for next season, and Maddux, who isn't, both sounded as if they want to return. Garciaparra said he hopes the Dodgers re-sign him. Little, who is tied with Ken Macha of the Oakland Athletics for the highest winning percentage among active managers, made it seem as if he wanted spring training to begin today.

"A lot of people will look at us and say it's tough to lose in the playoffs the way we did," he said. "But there are a lot of us looking at this season as a beginning. It's exciting when you think about what the organization accomplished, what it stands for and where it's headed."



Mets win, 3-0

Game 1: N.Y. Mets 6, Dodgers 5

Game 2: N.Y. Mets 4, Dodgers 1

Game 3: N.Y. Mets 9, Dodgers 5

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