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10/05/08 4:26 AM ET

Torre soaks up 18th playoff series win

Dodgers manager returns to LCS for first time since 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Although it pales in comparison to the Dodgers' 20-year streak without a playoff series win that was broken Saturday night when Los Angeles finished off a sweep of the Cubs in the National League Division Series, manager Joe Torre had not tasted sweet victory champagne in the playoffs since 2004.

Who would have thought all it would take for Torre to win a playoff series would be to leave the pressure cooker in New York for Hollywood, where he's doing a bit more than just filming commercials on a surfboard?

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With the Dodgers' victory, Torre won his 18th playoff series, although his first since the Yankees took a 3-0 lead on the Boston Red Sox in the unforgettable 2004 American League Championship Series, improving his record in Division Series play to 8-5 despite losing his past three first-round appearances with the Yankees.

Now Torre's on his way to the NL Championship Series for the first time since taking the 1982 Braves to that round, then winning six consecutive ALCS before the fateful loss to the Red Sox in 2004.

While the Dodgers await the winner of the Phillies and Brewers series to find out their NLCS opponent, the pitcher who beat Torre's Yankees in his last LCS in 2004 put into perspective Torre's accomplishments in his first year in Los Angeles, after leaving the Yankees on less-than-ideal terms last season following 12 straight playoff appearances.

2008 Dodgers 84-78 3-0 Won NLDS over Cubs
2007 Yankees 94-68 1-3 Lost ALDS to Indians
2006 Yankees 97-65 1-3 Lost ALDS to Tigers
2005 Yankees 95-67 2-3 Lost ALDS to Angels
2004 Yankees 101-61 3-1 Won ALDS over Twins
3-4 Lost ALCS to Red Sox
2003 Yankees 101-61 3-1 Won ALDS over Twins
4-3 Won ALCS over Red Sox
2-4 Lost WS to Marlins
2002 Yankees 103-58 1-3 Lost ALDS to Angels
2001 Yankees 95-65 3-2 Won ALDS over Athletics
4-1 Won ALCS over Mariners
3-4 Lost WS to D-Backs
2000 Yankees 87-74 3-2 Won ALDS over Athletics
4-2 Won ALCS over Mariners
4-1 Won WS over Mets
1999 Yankees 98-64 3-0 Won ALDS over Rangers
4-1 Won ALCS over Red Sox
4-0 Won WS over Braves
1998 Yankees 114-48 3-0 Won ALDS over Rangers
4-2 Won ALCS over Indians
4-0 Won WS over Padres
1997 Yankees 96-66 2-3 Lost ALDS to Indians
1996 Yankees 92-70 3-1 Won ALDS over Rangers
4-1 Won ALCS over Orioles
4-2 Won WS over Braves
1982 Braves 89-73 0-3 Lost NLCS to Cardinals
Overall postseason record: 79-50
Postseason series record: 18-9

"He's been there so many times," said Dodgers and former Red Sox starter Derek Lowe. "He's a true leader. He's turned the franchise back to where it should be. I know he may not say it publicly, but I know there's a lot of gratification to come here in one year and do what he's done."

Torre still refuses to take satisfaction in his new-found success while his former Yankees can only watch him on television, but there's no question Torre is enjoying baseball again.

"When you're 68 and decide to start something new, I knew baseball, I knew managing had to be more fun than it was the last couple years," Torre said.

Clearly touched by the victory with an emotional look on his face, Torre soaked in the moment with a champagne shower while making sure to congratulate every player who walked his way.

"Joe, you're the man," shortstop Angel Berroa told Torre before drenching him in alcohol.

As the Dodgers prepare for their first NLCS since 1988, when many of their core young players were toddlers, they will be guided by the steady hand of a manager who has been there many times, winning 18 of his 27 postseason series.

The four-time World Series champion has remained positive all season, telling his club in late August in Arizona on the heels on an eight-game losing streak that he still believed the Dodgers would win the NL West.

Even early in the season, when the Dodgers were inconsistent, Torre remained optimistic, based on the fact that Los Angeles could pitch and nobody had dominated the team, not even the Cubs, who took five of seven close games early in the year.

Down the stretch, once his club started rolling, he also resisted reporters who told him the division was in the bag until the day the Dodgers clinched, providing a level outlook to steer Los Angeles through a roller-coaster season that has included injured veterans, surprising rookies, long winning streaks and just as long losing streaks.

All that has landed Torre and the Dodgers in the NLCS.

"He's so even keel," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "When we had so many different things going on earlier in the year, injury-wise and things like that, his personality doesn't change. He's so even and steady. If it's from one to 100 on your personality scale he's between 49 and 51 pretty much every day of the year, and I think that helps."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.