BACK TO WORK: Matt Kemp (top) and Tori Hunter (bottom), celebrated their teams clinching the division but now they have to focus on helping the Dodgers and Angles clinch penants.Â Dodgers, Angels' World Series road goes through old foes
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports Editor
Tamara LattaSentinel Sports Writer
The Dodgers looked like they'd stumble to the finish line. Settling on cruise control while the Rockies were slowly surging behind them.
But as the champagne sprayed on the field and dugout, it showed why this season has been the most trying and the most gratifying for them.
"It never gets old," said manager Joe Torre. "You do it with different people all the time. It's what Roy Campanella said. You have to have some little boy inside you to play this game, and we certainly showed that tonight."
Winning the division was a great step for a team that went through the suspension of Manny Ramirez, the re-emergence of Juan Pierre and the coming-of-age of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. But now they have to carry that momentum into the postseason.
Â Meanwhile, the Angels enjoyed their champagne shower early and enter the postseason with a different look than in years past.
Instead of relying heavily on their pitchers, they're built around offense. All but two regulars batted .291 or higher and only the Yankees scored more runs in the AL.
Their offense broke nearly every single-season club record - in batting average, runs scored and batted in and hits.
Credit that offense being spurred to Chone Figgins, the league's most potent leadoff man. He finished second in the league in runs scored (114) and sixth in on-base percentage (.395), mostly due to him leading the league in walks (110)
The different approach is why they're favored against Boston but tonight will determine if they're a new team or the same old club that can't beat the Sox.
Keep an eye on bullpen anchor Darren Oliver. The 38-year-old has found the fountain of youth as his earned run average has dropped each of the last three years.
Oliver led the team in ERA (2.71) and innings pitched. He won't get much attention but his value can't be measured. He's the quiet leader of a solid bullpen if the Halos get a lead, it's almost a guarantee he'll get it to closer Brian Fuentes.
Course, Fuentes is no guarantee either despite his numbers. But Oliver will more often than not do his job to get him in that situation.
Pitching dominates the postseason but good luck to Boston and any staff facing this lineup. Top to bottom, this could be the toughest line-up left in the postseason period.
It's also worth noting neither the Dodgers or the Angels have beaten their current foes in a postseason series. Will history repeat itself or be rewritten with a different ending?
The Dodgers will now face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Both ball clubs are very productive and have two of the biggest names in baseball. It's going to be a clash between Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols two of the best right hitters in baseball.
The last time the teams faced off in October, it was in 2004 when the Cardinals scored a 3-1 series win in the NLDS.Â Â
Both teams have weapons on offense, so this series is up in the air. Despite the Cardinals 5-2 title, the Dodgers have a shot at this five game series; nothing is predictable here. The past is the past and each team will have a fresh start during the postseason. They both won their division respectively and battled for home-field advantage in the National League. The Dodgers came out on top so they will host the first two games at Dodger Stadium starting Wednesday.Â
"I spend more time with these guys, more than my mom, my dad, everybody else," said Kemp. "We are family; we stick together, we going to keep doing it."
Every story I've read have already gave the Cardinals the win. Why are the Dodgers being put on the back burner? Haven't they proved that the potential is there to be a winner? They just won the best record in the National League. It wasn't handed to them they did work hard to earn that record. Their bullpen also just struck out 30 at bats over the weekend against the red hot Rockies. The Dodgers are the underdogs going into this series according to every Cardinals-Dodgers breakdown I've read. But don't put all your energy into the Cardinals because they have lost eight of there last ten games.
"It's going to be a challenge, but we can't worry about them all we can do is be ready to go," Kemp said.
Overcoming their postseason nemesis, the Boston Red Sox. Since 2004, the Sox are 9-1 against the Angels in three divisional series despite being the road team twice.
For all of the team's accolades this decade - five division titles and a World Series win in 2002, they've only advanced past the first round once since that championship.
It's no longer enough getting to the postseason. This team needs to exorcise their own curse against Boston, one that goes back to Game 4 of the 1986 ALCS where Dave Henderson broke the Angels' hearts with that three-run homer.
Exorcising a curse is no easy task, just ask the team in the other dugout. It's up to the Angels to see if they can find some heavenly luck to maintain their regular season balance.
Boston's pitching has been inconsistent but they've always been tough against the Angels. Their offense, however, is no longer the feared juggernaut that you'd worry about lighting up for runs at any minute.
The Angels should win this series if they can find a way to keep their offense productive. However, Boston has found ways to win games in October as opposed to lose them so anything can happen.