Torre pushes all the right buttons in Dodgers sweep

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Two future Hall of Fame managers matched up in the NLDS, and the end result was a no contest. Everything Joe Torre touched this week turned to gold. Tony La Russa, who had more options with his flexible roster, opted to stay the course and came up well short.
Torre’s biggest successes:
1. Going to closer Jonathan Broxton early and often.
With his team down 2-1, Torre called on Broxton to begin the top of the eighth in Thursday’s Game 2. He saw Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday due up and knew Broxton was his best hope to keep the game close. Broxton responded with a perfect eighth, George Sherrill followed with a scoreless inning and the Dodgers came back to win in the bottom of the ninth.
2. Choosing Vicente Padilla to start Saturday’s Game 3
A healthy Hiroki Kuroda likely would have gotten the call, but the Dodgers didn’t have that option. Torre had Padilla, Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland to pick from. Padilla was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance for the Dodgers, while Garland was 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. Billingsley, of course, had struggled throughout the second half, but he did rebound with back-to-back quality starts to end the regular season. Padilla proved to be the choice, and he responded with seven scoreless innings, his longest outing as a Dodger.
3. Using Ronnie Belliard over Orlando Hudson at second base
Torre chose to sacrifice some defense and start the hot-hitting Belliard in all three games against St. Louis. Belliard responded by going 3-for-11 with two RBI and two walks. He drove in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday.
La Russa, on the other hand, will look back with regrets. Pulling Adam Wainwright after eight innings in Game 2 was a defensible decision. Sticking with Ryan Franklin until he lost the game in the ninth wasn’t. Going to Jason LaRue as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of a 5-0 game on Saturday was terribly foolish. The idea was to save Troy Glaus for a bigger situation, but the Cardinals’ best hope of putting themselves in a position to win the game was to get someone on base to lead off the eighth and Glaus was a lot more likely than LaRue to make that happen.
Of course, it’s not La Russa’s fault that his team didn’t hit. The Cardinals never scored multiple runs in an inning in the three games against the Dodgers. Their defense was shaky as well. Besides the dropped liner from Matt Holliday that cost them Game 2, they had two miscues in Game 3. Joel Pineiro made an error, and Brendan Ryan failed to handle a grounder from Casey Blake that was wrongly ruled an infield single. It was two bad games and one unlucky one at the wrong time for a team that seemed about as good of a bet as any to come out of the NL.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.