5-0: Done Deal

Clayton Kershaw

Los Angeles broke out of a five game, six-inning slump, blowing open a scoreless tie in the last of the seventh inning and claiming the elusive one victory needed to clinch their second N.L. West title in succession 5-0, with all the runs coming in the seventh inning. Clayton Kershaw and three relievers held the Rockies to three hits.

Someone once said that mixed emotions was watching your mother-in-law drive your new car off a cliff. October 3 had been a date Dodgers fans had set aside for mourning for over 50 years after the Giants won the 1951 and 1962 playoffs on that date but the win takes some of the sting out of that date on the calendar.

Young (21) Clayton Kershaw allowed three scattered singles and struck out 10 Rockies in route to the win, breaking a five-game losing streak and ending the Colorado dream comeback after trailing by 15 1/2 games on June 3.

Hong-Chih Kuo (2-0) officially got the win and, combined with George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton, the trio of relievers retired the final nine Rockies in order after Kershaw had completely tamed the beast from Colorado and, at least for a time, ended their Rocktober charge.

Los Angeles will hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and open against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, October 7.

National League Division Series

Wednesday- St. Louis at Los Angeles October 7
Thursday- St. Louis at Los Angeles ?October  8 
Saturday- Oct. 10  Los Angeles at St. Louis 
?Sunday- Oct. 11 -- Los Angeles at St. Louis (if necessary)?
Tuesday, Oct. 13 -- St. Louis at Los Angeles (if necessary)
Kershaw pinched off the Colorado offense in a classic pitcher's duel that saw both he and Jose De La Rosa open the game by retiring nine straight opponents. The Colorado starter left the game with a groin injury in the fourth but Jose Contreras took up where he left off.

Kershaw was spectacular for six scoreless innings, striking out 10 -- the first five in a row and nine with two out in the fourth inning -- while allowing only three hits and leaving with only his 14th no-decision.

Scouts have pointed out that a left-handed power pitcher with this sort of talent comes around only about every 15 or 20 years and he has given the baseball world a peek at his remarkable gifts. He left the scoreless game after six innings and 104 pitches, drawing comparison to another Dodgers standout lefty, Sandy Koufax.

The game exploded in the Rockies' face in the seventh, an inning too late for Kershaw to get the win, when the Dodgers scored five times on RBI from five different players and went on to claim the win and the division championship plus the dubious privilege of meeting St. Louis in the first round of the National League Division Series.

The Dodgers' magic number for clinching the NL West dropped to zero -- finally -- when Broxton retired Garrett Atkins on a soft fly to Andre Ethier in right field for the final out. L.A. had frittered away a six game lead with seven left to play before last night's win.

"It never gets old," said manager Joe Torre, who will be going to the postseason for a record-tying 14th straight year with his 13th division title, including 10 with the Yankees, one with Atlanta and now his second in the City of the Angels.

"You do it with different people all the time. It's what Roy Campanella said. You have to be a man to play major league baseball but you have some little boy inside you, and we certainly showed that tonight."

The Rockies took the opening game of the season-ending three-game series 4-3 for their fifth straight win and ninth in 12 games, but had settle for their second wild-card berth in three years and a open against the defending World Series champion Phillies.

The winning rally featured RBI hits from pinch-hitters Ron Belliard and Mark Loretta plus RBI singles from Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez and a sac fly by Matt Kemp.

After Kershaw and De La Rosa had each set down nine consecutive batters in a row to open the game, Todd Helton got the first Colorado hit in the fourth, ending a string of 11 straight Colorado batters retired by the Dodgers lefty.

De La Rosa strained his right groin on his second pitch to Rafael Furcal in the bottom of the inning and had to leave the game. Jose Contreras took over and allowed the Dodgers first hit, a single to Furcal.

The delay for De La Rosa and his replacement by Conteras took some time and Kershaw seemingly lost a bit off his command when he faced the Cardinals in the fifth. The top and the bottom of the inning were remarkably similar.

Kershaw walked Garrett Atkins and allowed a single to Chris Ianetta. A Furcal, Hudson and Loney double play, an intentional walk and Kershaw's 10th strikeout ended the threat.

In the bottom of the inning Casey Blake and James Loney opened with opposite field singles, Orlando Hudson hit into a double play, Russ Martin was walked intentionally and Kershaw struck out to almost perfectly duplicate the top of the inning.

Bench coach Bob Schaeffer was give the rest of the night off by the home plate umpire when he was caught offering help on strike calls from the Dodgers' dugout with Kershaw at bat.

Kershaw allowed a walk and a one-out single in the sixth but wriggled out of the inning without damage. Pierre singled and stole second in the bottom of the sixth but was left on base.

Casey Blake led off the bottom of the lucky seventh with his second hit of the game and moved to second when the Colorado outfielder fumbled the ball. Loney bunted him to second and, accoring to TV replays, beat the throw to first but was called out at first.

Ron Belliard pinch-hit for Hudson and lashed a shot off Helton's glove at first base to drive in the first run of the game. Mark Loretta, hitting for Kuo, doubled to right for the second run, Furcal was walked intentionally and Pierre's single made it 3-0.

Kemp drove a ball deep to left to score Furcal and Manny Ramirez lined a single to right to make it 5-0.

Ramirez, whose slump had coincided with the Dodgers losing streak, hit the ball hard three times in the game and was robbed of a hit in the second inning when Carlos Gonzalez made a diving catch in right-center field.

TV replays show the ball slipped out of Gonzalez glove when he hit the ground but he rolled over on it, then held it up as if he had made the catch and the second base umpire bought the deception.

With the five-run lead, the rest of the game was routine. Kuo, Sherrill and Broxton handcuffed the Rockies to set off a wild celebration on the field and later in the clubhouse, of the Dodgers' first back-to-back division titles since 1977-78.

The champagne that had been lugged from Pittsburgh to San Diego and back to Los Angeles could finally be opened.

The Dodgers now must determine a playoff rotation for the rematch of their 2004 NLDS showdown, with Wolf and Kershaw opening the series in L.A. In the 2004 meeting, St. Louis beat the Jim Tracy-led Dodgers and the teams shook hands after the final game in an unprecedented show of sportsmanship.

Tracy, who guided the the Rockies miraculous comeback and should be a lock for the Manager of the Year award, said, "We did put a scare into them. But you know, we're one of eight teams that have an opportunity to play for a world championship, and I'm sure there's 22 others that would like to have that opportunity," Tracy said.

Los Angeles has qualified for postseason play three of the four years that Ned Colletti has been general manager. Their 94 wins are the most for a Dodgers team since 1988, the last time they won the World Series.

The Dodgers have played in 18 World Series, winning six times, eight League Championship Series, winning five times, and this will be their seventh appearance in the Division Series, winning twice. It is their 11th division title in the 41 years since the current format began in 1969.

The Dodgers close out the regular season this afternoon with their third straight full house and are expected to move past the Yankees to win the attendance title. RHP Jason Marquis (15-12, 3.95) will start for Colorado against RHP Vicente Padilla (3-0, 3.41).

 Score by Innings
Colorado	000 000 000-0
Los Angeles	000 000 50x-5

 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  1  2  0  .269
Pierre cf-lf	4  0  2  1  .307
Kemp rf-cf      3  0  0  1  .298
Ramirez lf	4  0  1  1  .290
 Sherrill p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
Blake 3b	4  1  2  0  .280
Loney 1b	4  1  2  0  .280
Hudson 2b	2  0  0  0  .282
 Belliard ph	1  0  1  1  .277
 Castro pr-2b	1  1  0  0  .282
Martin c	2  1  0  0  .250
Kershaw p	2  0  0  0  .104
 Kuo p        	0  0  0  0  .000
 Loretta ph	1  0  1  1  .232
 Hu pr         	0  1  0  0  .000
 Ethier rf	0  0  0  0  .273
----------------------------------
 Totals	        30  5  9  5
 Colorado 	29  0  3  0  

 2B- Loretta (8). RBI- Belliard (39),
Loretta (25), Pierre (31), Kemp (101,
Ramirez (63). S- Loney. SF- Kemp.
LOB- Los Angeles 6, Colorado 5.
SB- Martin (11), Pierre (28).
DP- Furcal, Hudson and Loney.

 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Kershaw	        6.0  3  0-0  3 10  2.79
Kuo (2-0)       1.0  0  0-0  0  0  3.00
Sherrill 	1.0  0  0-0  0  2  1.70
Broxton	        1.0  0  0-0  0  0  2.61
 T- 3:03. Att- 54,531.
October 3rd Jinx
Saturday exorcised at least part the Dodgers October 3 demons. On that date in 1951, Ralph Branca gave up a three-run homer by Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the ninth inning at New York's Polo Grounds as the New York Giants won the NL pennant with a stunning 5-4 win in the deciding game of a three-game playoff. In 1962, the Dodgers lost the third and deciding game of another three-game playoff with the Giants, who rallied with four runs in the ninth to win 6-4 at Los Angeles.

Ricky Awardees Honored
The Dodgers honored their Branch Rickey Minor League Player (shortstop Dee Gordon) and Pitcher of the Year (LHP Scott Elbert) in a pre-game ceremony on the field. The 24-year-old Elbert went 4-4 with a 3.84 ERA in a combined 20 games (18 starts) with Chattanooga and Albuquerque and led the franchise in strikeouts per nine innings. The 21-year-old Gordon was named Midwest League Prospect of the Year and league Co-MVP with teammate Kyle Russell after leading the league with 73 steals and 12 triples and ranking second with 162 hits and 96 runs.   

Oldest Dodger Honored
The Dodgers also honored former Brooklyn Dodger Tony Malinosky, the oldest living former Major Leaguer. Malinosky, who turns 100 years old tomorrow, played 35 games as an infielder with the 1937 Dodgers in his only big league season. He currently lives in Oxnard, roughly 60 miles north of Los Angeles.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Before he game, Juan Pierre was presented with the team's fourth annual Roy Campanella Award by Campy's daughter, Joni Roan. ...Manny Ramirez was not the only Dodgers hitter struggling since Sept. 15. Russell Martin came into the game batting just .143 and outfielders Andre Ethier (.192) and Juan Pierre (.173) were only slightly better. ...The win gave the Dodgers a 13-4 season record against Colorado. ...The Dodgers have had the best record in the NL seven times since moving to Los Angeles – 1959, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1978, and 1983. They Dodgers are 49-31 at Dodger Stadium, and have topped their home win total from 2008. ...The Dodgers have welcomed 3,710,372 fans to Dodger Stadium in 80 openings, an average of 46,715 per game.  The Dodgers lead the Majors in average attendance and rank second in overall attendance behind only the New York Yankees (3,719,358). With today's crowd they will surpassed the Yankees for the highest cumulative attendance in the Majors and the second-highest attendance total in Dodger franchise history. The record total is 3,857,036 in 2007. The Dodgers have reached the three million mark in home attendance for 14 consecutive years and the 3.6 million mark in five straight campaigns.

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