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Dodgers, DePodesta not panicking
10/07/2004 10:15 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- A year ago, Paul DePodesta was riding a wave of good feeling. His A's had won the first two games of their first-round series over the Red Sox in Oakland and needed one more win. But they went to Boston and couldn't close out the deal.

This year, DePodesta's Dodgers are in the alternate position. They're heading back to Los Angeles down 2-0 after Thursday night's 8-3 loss in Game 2 at Busch Stadium, hoping the Cardinals won't be able to close out the deal in their National League Division Series.

"You can't panic," said DePodesta, the A's assistant general manager back then and the Dodgers GM now. "Last year, I was in the exact same position those guys (the Cardinals) are in right now. We had won two games at home and were heading out on the road. You saw what happened to us last year. No, it does no good to panic."

In the ebb and flow of a baseball game, the Dodgers certainly didn't panic in their second of bookend, 8-3 losses here this week.

They were simply overwhelmed by a Cardinals lineup that scored seven of its eight runs with two men out, doing that with their big bats in the middle of the lineup -- Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- going 1-for-10 in the game with two walks and a run scored.

The Cardinals won 105 games during the regular season to the Dodgers' 93 and in the first two games of the best-of-five series, the two sides looked every bit of the 12-win difference.

"Today, we could've have won that game easy," said Eric Gagne, with all the bravado he brings to the job as one of the game's best closers.

But game-tying back-to-back homers by Shawn Green and Milton Bradley to open the fourth inning and three homers in a postseason game for the first time since the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the 1978 World Series weren't nearly enough.

The first three Cardinals pitchers gave the Dodgers the gift of seven walks over the course of the opening 5 1/3 innings and none of them came around to score.

The key to the game, manager Jim Tracy said, was Steve Finley's bases-loaded at-bat that ended the fourth inning. St. Louis had walked the bases full and reliever Cal Eldred went 3-and-0 on Finley, who ultimately flied out to center on a full-count pitch.

"That was a huge, huge at-bat," Tracy said. "The difference in the game right there. The whole thing."

Finley is the Dodger who just last Saturday at Dodger Stadium hit a grand slam off the Giants' Wayne Franklin on his second delivery, capping a seven-run, ninth-inning rally to ice the NL West title on the next-to-last day of the regular season.

Green, who was 1-for-8 in the two games, said he could feel momentum beginning to turn when he and Bradley led off that inning, the two homers coming just after a disastrous Dodgers defensive performance as the Cards scored three times in their half of the third.

Finley's at-bat was a certain setback.

"I thought that when we hit the home runs it was a good sign because it tied the game up," Green said. "We would've liked to have more. But you can't expect a guy (Finley) to hit a grand slam every time he comes up, like he did against the Giants."

The defensive display was one for the ages.

Bradley was either playing too shallow or too deep in right field on two key extra base hits. And first baseman Green couldn't handle a one-bounce throw from the second baseman, a pickoff attempt by the pitcher, and a high-bouncing grounder just inside the first-base bag that turned into a run-scoring double.

Still, the Dodgers overcame that disaster.

"Tonight, I think we did a great job with the middle of their lineup. It was the back end that hurt us," DePodesta said. "We've swung the bats OK. I know we've only scored three runs each night, but if you told me before the game that we'd out homer them, 3-0, and we'd also walk seven times, I'd have felt pretty good about the outcome."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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