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Sweep leaves LA waiting for NLCS foe

Sweep leaves LA waiting for NLCS foe

LOS ANGELES -- Manager Joe Torre was more than willing to let his Dodgers celebrate in the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium on Saturday night. In fact, after walking over to find National League Division Series Game 3 winner Vicente Padilla and giving him a hug, Torre found himself in the center of a rapidly growing ring of players.

They yelled. He smiled. They dumped champagne. He sprayed some back.

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That was Saturday.

But on Sunday, Hollywood will welcome its team back home in style, as everything in Southern California always is. The champagne bottles that a number of players likely will stash away in their luggage obviously are evidence of the first-round series win. But in the big-picture sense, this is no three-game sprint. It's an attempt at an 11-win marathon.

"It feels incomplete," pitcher Randy Wolf said after Saturday's 5-1 series-clinching win over the Cardinals. "We've done a lot this year. It's a great feeling to be in the NLCS, but we have eight more games to win. We understand that."

So what's next? This much we already know: The attempt at ascending steps four through seven in the pursuit of 11 will begin at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. Los Angeles earned that home-field advantage with those 95 wins in the regular season.

The TBD in all of this is who will be in the opposing dugout.

The Rockies and Phillies sat snowed in on Saturday in Denver, which pushed Game 3 of that Division Series to Sunday at 7:07 pm PT. The series is tied, 1-1, and could last through Tuesday if it ends up going the distance.

While the Dodgers will use the next four days to get healthy and rested, it will also afford plenty of time to analyze the two potential matchups that separate L.A. from its first World Series berth since 1988.

Division Series
Gm. 1LAD 5, STL 3WrapVideo
Gm. 2LAD 3, STL 2WrapVideo
Gm. 3LAD 5, STL 1WrapVideo

"Let's enjoy our day off," right fielder Andre Ethier said shortly after Satuday's win. "Then let's sit back and watch this game, pay attention and learn a lot about those two teams over there."

The Dodgers already know quite a bit when it comes to scouting the Rockies. The teams faced each other 18 times in the regular season, including three games in the season's final weekend. L.A. owned the season series, with 14 wins to Colorado's four. But while the raw numbers suggest dominance on the Dodgers' end, that's not entirely true.

The Dodgers won eight of the first nine games the teams played, but all of those came before the Clint Hurdle managerial era abruptly ended. Once Jim Tracy took over on May 29, the discrepancy wasn't so glaring. L.A. still won each of the final three series, but each by just a 2-1 margin.

Still, the Dodgers can say that they took all six series between the two powerhouses of the NL West, including one a week ago that clinched a division title for L.A. Also, they outscored the Rockies by a glaring margin, 105-63. L.A. fared evenly at both Dodger Stadium and at Coors Field, going 7-2 on each field.

"We've had a little more success against the Rockies, but it doesn't really make a difference once you get into the playoffs," first baseman James Loney said. "I don't know. Both teams have battled throughout the whole year."

DODGERS VS. NLCS OPPONENTS
vs PHI
  • Won season series, 4-3
  • Team batting average: .276
  • Runs scored per game: 3.7
  • Staff ERA: 3.14
  • Outscored Phillies, 26-25
vs COL
  • Won season series, 14-4
  • Team batting average: .295
  • Runs scored per game: 5.8
  • Staff ERA: 3.43
  • Outscored Rockies, 105-63

The Dodgers don't enjoy that same familiarity with the Phillies, having played them only seven times in 2009. But there's no substitute for playing with revenge in mind, and a matchup with Philadelphia would provide L.A. with just that.

It was one year ago that the Phillies, on their way to a World Series title, eliminated the Dodgers from enjoying that same opportunity. The two met in the NL Championship Series, only to have the Dodgers' season end after a Game 5 loss at Dodger Stadium.

As they did with the Rockies, the Dodgers also won the season series with the Phillies by a 4-3 margin. The teams split two games in a four-game series in Los Angeles in early June, though both of the Dodgers' wins in that series came by just one run. They met a month earlier as well, with the Dodgers winning two of three at Citizens Bank Park.

Two of the seven games played between the two division winners went to extra innings, and the Dodgers outscored the Phillies by just one run in all. Needless to say, we'll leave it up to the Vegas oddsmakers to pick the favorite if these two clubs do indeed meet for a second consecutive year.

SWEEPING SUCCESS?
The Dodgers are the 15th NL club to sweep a Division Series since 1995. Of the previous 14, only three (1996 Braves, 1997 Marlins and 2007 Rockies) went on to win the NLCS. The 1997 Marlins are the only club to win the World Series.
In the AL, eight teams have earned Division Series sweeps, with six going on to win the ALCS and five the World Series.

"We've obviously seen Colorado a lot more, but Philly obviously has an offense that is very strong," Wolf said. "They've got the pitchers, too. It's going to be a battle either way. We've got to be ready for whichever team comes our way. They both have strengths in different areas. They're both strong teams."

The one thing the season numbers can't account for, though, is the fact that the Dodgers are poised to come in the more rested team of the bunch. Should the Phillies-Rockies series go to a Game 5, the winner would have just one day to recover. That may not be a big deal for the offense, but when it comes to the pitching staff, it obviously could be critical.

In the meantime, though, let those dinner-table matchup debates rage on.

"It doesn't really matter," third baseman Casey Blake said. "I feel like both those teams are very good. They both have solid pitching and a solid lineup. When you get to this point in the series, it doesn't really matter."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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