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T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers' brand of baseball surprises the Cardinals

October 08, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

As the postseason began Wednesday, it all went according to form.

Cliff Lee dominated the Rockies as expected, the Yankees dismissed the Twins, of course, and Randy Wolf showed why he went 275 starts without ever getting the chance to work a playoff game before.

It was Dodgers textbook baseball, all right, terrific entertainment, hair-raising and just how they won more games in the National League this season than any other.

You mix shaky starting pitching with a burst of hitting and a bullpen committee with the ability to take a game over beginning with the seventh inning, and the Cardinals probably still don't know what happened.

They had Chris Carpenter, as good as it gets in the National League, a 1-0 lead in the first inning -- as much support as Carpenter needs some times, and then they got mowed under by this wacky brand of chaos.

Rafael Furcal, who likes to say it doesn't matter how you start but only how you finish, had a single, triple, sacrifice fly to drive in a run and another single. No way the Cardinals could see that coming.

Matt Kemp, the game's next superstar, gave the Dodgers the lead and momentum at Carpenter's expense with a two-run homer, and while Wolf didn't last four innings, five other pitchers, including Jeff Weaver, got the job done.

Most experts had the Cardinals pegged to win this series with better starting pitching, but the Dodgers had the best team ERA in the National League and will undoubtedly try to employ the same winning formula today.

If successful, the Dodgers will get the chance to sweep, leaving those poor people in St. Louis to wake up Sunday with nothing to do but cheer for the Rams.

Yikes.

IN THE fourth inning, the count went to 3 and 0 on Andre Ethier, which sent Manny Ramirez running back into the dugout to switch bats. Once Ethier reached base, Manny doubled to left. If only he had thought about switching bats back in July.

THE DODGERS did everything they could to get the crowd going, Lakers on the scoreboard imploring everyone to make noise, celebrities, loud, pounding music and certainly not a minute of peace for anyone, but Dodgers fans opted to react on their own -- the game providing numerous opportunities to let loose.

It's a good thing the players weren't as uptight as the Dodgers' in-game entertainment crew, which seemed intent on forcing things to happen.

It was like the early days of the Parking Lot Attendant in charge, and former marketing guy Lon Rosen's idea of a good time everyone going home with a headache.

IT'S THE playoffs so I asked if any of the Dodgers had requested a change in personal songs for when they walk to home plate. I was told only one, Orlando Hudson, and it was a problem.

He chose, "I'm a A Dboy," Dboy, which is short for dope boy, and a song loaded with obscenities and a racial slur. The Dodgers were trying to do what they could to edit and clean it up. I suggested just letting Nancy Bea Hefley play it, figuring she's heard it so much on her iPod, she'd know it by heart.

THE DODGERS had Hugh Hefner and three of what appeared to be his closest companions introduce the "code of conduct" for fans in Dodger Stadium. I have no idea what the code of conduct might be for someone with three companions, so I listened intently.

But instead of Hef, we got other celebrities like Larry King and George Lopez telling everyone how to behave in Dodger Stadium. My favorite was Kobe Bryant, who told fans to watch their foul language. You know, just like he does.

VIN SCULLY was behind the radio microphone for the first three innings and the last, leaving Charley Steiner, as I told him, in middle relief. "That kind of makes you the Jon Garland of broadcasters," I suggested.

"Better than [Guillermo] Mota," said Steiner of the Dodgers relief pitcher who didn't make the playoff roster.

WE LEARNED how little regard Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa has for his bullpen, the tying run on second in the fifth with two out and letting Carpenter hit for himself.

Carpenter, a .175 hitter, had thrown 78 pitches and was getting hit hard by the Dodgers. He stayed in the game, struck out, returned to the mound for three more outs but gave up another run.

I have no idea how La Russa has made a living as a manager.

THREE HOURS before the game a Dodgers spokesman said the game wasn't sold out, but it would be. The top five or six rows in the right-field pavilion, though, remained empty.

A StubHub representative said the average Dodgers playoff ticket was selling for $74; a year ago for the Cubs and the chance to clinch the first round, the average ticket was going for $149. Apparently some people actually paid an average of $47 a ticket for the Kings opener.

The current average ticket selling price for the Angels playoff opener is $94, down from $103 with the Red Sox last year. By way of comparison, the average ticket for the U2 with Black Eyed Peas show this month is going for $185.

The Dodgers announced a sellout, apparently many of the folks in right field sitting on each others' laps.

AT THE top of the third, the Dodgers showed former "Game Over" closer Eric Gagne on the screen. Gagne got a rousing ovation, and obviously moved, he returned a two-handed kiss.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER Manny grounded into a double play, the Dodgers ran a commercial reminding kids that steroids are bad for your body. I wonder why they didn't run it after showing Gagne on the scoreboard.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com

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