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Dodgers sweep Cards, return to NLCS

ST. LOUIS - Unemployed in August, Vicente Padilla kept the Los Angeles Dodgers going in October.

The second-chance pitcher shut down Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals, putting the Dodgers back in the National League championship series with a 5-1 victory on Saturday night.

Andre Ethier missed the cycle by a single, Manny Ramirez had three hits and two RBIs, and the Dodgers didn't need help this time from another St. Louis fielding blunder to sweep their division series opponent for a second straight season.

Pujols and Matt Holliday were a combined 2-for-8 with a late RBI for the Cardinals, who never recharged after becoming the first National League team to clinch a division title. St. Louis was 1-9 after wrapping up the NL Central, and was swept for the first time in the division series or NLCS play and only for the third time overall in the postseason.

Closer Jonathan Broxton struck out Rick Ankiel for the last out and pumped his fist as the Dodgers ran out to the mound to celebrate becoming the first team to advance to the championship series. They await the winner of the Philadelpia-Colorado series that is even at a game apiece. The Phillies beat Los Angeles in the NLCS last season in five games.

Padilla, designated for assignment by the Rangers in early August, was 4-0 the final month with the Dodgers before shutting down the Cardinals on four hits over seven innings in his first career postseason appearance. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning he was dominant, retiring 19 of 21 hitters against a team he last faced in 2003.

The Dodgers were already up 3-0 in the third inning when starter Joel Pineiro dropped Pujols' simple toss at first for an error on James Loney's grounder for the lifeless Cardinals beset by bad play this series.

Holliday, who dropped a fly ball for what would have been the final out of Game 2, got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 47,296 before his first at-bat with two men on and one out in the first. Then he tapped out to the mound. Pfft.

Ramirez, only 1-for-8 the first two games amid suggestions by manager Joe Torre that he was trying too hard, gave the Dodgers the early lead with a two-out RBI double in the first.