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Friday, October 03, 2008

Dodgers Destroy Crumbling Cubs: Dodgers 10, Cubs 3

The storylines in the National League are rapidly growing dull; the Phillies are on the verge of winning their first postseason series since the 1993 NLCS over Atlanta, which they took 4-2. Should they sweep — a strong possibility considering the Brew Crew's all-in gamble of starting C.C. Sabathia on yet another three-day-rest regimen — it would be the Phils' first lossless postseason series, well, ever. But suchlike is uninteresting, drained of all its drama. The postseason should be full of good stories, if they work right; 2007 had the Rockies and their rocket ship ride to the World Series. That, by the way, is one of the principle reasons I despise the post-2004 Red Sox: they have authored two of the most tedious World Series wins in the millennium.

The question before this game was really whether the Cubs could get a good start out of Carlos Zambrano. The early indicators were not good; he had a 5.80 ERA in the second half, and ERAs of 7.00 or higher in his last two months of the season. Undoubtedly, this got little play in because Big Z threw a complete game shutout against the Astros in "neutral" Milwaukee on September 14. But the awful truth is that in only four of his nine starts in August and September did he last even six innings.

The Dodgers answered by assaulting Zambrano in the second, taking advantage of two crucial errors by second baseman Mark DeRosa and first baseman Derrek Lee. Five runs went on the board, including one driven in by Rafael Furcal, who, either at the behest of manager Joe Torre or on his own volition, decided to bunt for an infield single. Sure enough, it unhinged the Cubs yet again, and James Loney scored from third. Amazingly, only one of the five Dodger runs was earned.

That was the game; it sucked the life out of the stadium, and the Dodgers continued to pick up a run here or there off Zambrano or his relievers. Manny Ramirez hit his second homer in as many games in the fifth. In the seventh, Zambrano left the game, and Neil Cotts allowed his inherited baserunner, Manny Ramirez, to score on a Matt Kemp double. By the time Jim Edmonds drove in the Cubs' first run in the bottom of the frame on a clearly tiring Chad Billingsley, the game was all but lost. Billingsley was otherwise brilliant, economical with his pitches, and unimpeachable in the result.

The entire Cubs infield got an error in the ninth when Aramis Ramirez allowed Juan Pierre to reach; that set up a confrontation between Kerry Wood and Casey Blake, which Blake won to get the Dodgers their 10th run. The Cubs got a very distant look at the game in the bottom of the inning, when Takashi Saito proved ineffective; he gave up two runs and got hit hard while making zero outs. Jonathan Broxton wobbled a bit, walking Felix Pie (!), but retiring the next three batters in order with men on first and second to end the game.

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