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All-everything Maddux leads Dodgers back into playoffs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Ned Colletti recalls several nerve-racking
days after he dealt for Greg Maddux at the deadline, emotions to be
expected after pulling off such a blockbuster trade.

The Dodgers' rookie general manager had only spoken to the
300-game winner by phone.

Two months later, Maddux pitched Los Angeles back into the
playoffs, a key second-half piece on a remade roster put together
to bring this franchise back to respectability after an awful 2005.

Maddux outdueled rookie Matt Cain, hit a single and even stole a
base as the Dodgers won their sixth straight game, beating the San
Francisco Giants 4-2 Saturday.

That deal for Mad Dog sure did pan out.

"I wasn't with the team when we made the trade and I didn't
come back for about a week," Colletti said, drenched from a
champagne dousing in the raucous visitor's clubhouse. "The first
time I felt good was when he walked into my office. That was the
first time I was able to calm down."

Maddux was among the first to make his way into the clubhouse
for a wild postgame party of champagne and beer after the Dodgers
danced on the mound, celebrating in their archrivals' ballpark.

"That's the greatest thing that can happen to you," said Hall
of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, who guided the Dodgers to eight NL
West championships in 20 years before stepping down in 1996
following a heart attack.

"If you're going to cinch it, you want to cinch it against the
San Francisco Giants," he said. "That's why this is sweeter than
ever. ... Everybody in Los Angeles thought we weren't going to
amount to anything."

Who could blame the fans considering what the Dodgers did last
year?

After winning the NL West in 2004, Los Angeles went 71-91 in
2005, among the worst seasons in franchise history.

Los Angeles and San Diego head into the season's final day tied
for the division lead. The Dodgers' victory ensured them and
first-year manager Grady Little at least the wild card -- the rest
of the NL playoff picture was still to be sorted out. The Padres
hold the tiebreaker for the West based on head-to-head record.

It was fitting that Maddux (15-14) had much to do with the
Dodgers' return to the playoffs. They acquired the 40-year-old from
the Chicago Cubs on July 31 to give them a veteran arm for the
stretch run -- and he won six games in Dodger Blue.

"It feels great," Maddux said. "I had a great time in
Chicago. I'm glad I got traded to Los Angeles, so it's been a very
good year for me personally. Hopefully it'll get better. I wasn't
expecting to be in the playoffs until I got traded."

Los Angeles, which led the NL West from Aug. 10 to Sept. 16, had
its share of dramatic wins to get to this point -- including a 4-3
victory in Friday night's series opener.

Colletti left his job as assistant GM of the rival Giants and
overhauled the Dodgers last winter, hiring Little to replace Jim
Tracy.

"It started off with a complete change from top to bottom,"
said pitcher Derek Lowe, set to be the Game 1 playoff starter. "We
spent money in the right places. I give them credit. In spring
training they told us that throughout the year they were going to
get it right and make changes."

Julio Lugo hit a sacrifice fly in the first for the Dodgers and
the Giants tied it in the bottom half on Lance Niekro's RBI
groundout.

Lugo doubled in a run in the third before Niekro's solo homer
leading off the fourth. J.D. Drew doubled in a run in the Los
Angeles fifth.

Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra missed the game after
re-injuring his left side on a swinging strikeout in the eighth
inning Friday.

Last season marked the Dodgers' second-worst finish since moving
west from Brooklyn in 1958.

"I'm glad that it happened the way it did," Little said.

Los Angeles also added Garciaparra and Kenny Lofton to join
holdovers Jeff Kent and Drew, then dealt for Maddux.

"I've always wanted to be in position to get back to the World
Series, and we have that here," said Kent, who played in the 2002
World Series for San Francisco. "It's been an emotional
roller-coaster for us this year, all of the winning and losing
streaks and personnel changes. It has been gratifying everyone has
been able to maintain it without the boat tipping over."

Garciaparra moved from shortstop to first base, and Los Angeles
also brought in shortstop Rafael Furcal, third baseman Bill Mueller
and pitcher Brett Tomko as free agents.

"I'm very proud of these guys," Colletti said. "I'm glad we
won, but we are just getting going. We've got a long way to go to
get where we want to be."

Maddux allowed three hits and two runs, struck out four and
didn't walk a batter in seven strong innings. Takashi Saito
finished for his 24th save in 26 chances.

Los Angeles reached the playoffs despite not having closer Eric
Gagne for most of the year. He has spent two stints on the disabled
list after undergoing surgery to remove a nerve in his elbow and
also an operation on his back.

Cain (13-12) allowed nine hits and four runs, struck out four
and walked two in 5 2/3 innings.

"It's well deserved," Giants manager Felipe Alou said of the
Dodgers. "We have to accept the truth that they were better."

Giants outfielder Randy Winn was a late scratch because of a
left calf strain. Slugger Barry Bonds had the day off and was set
to play in Sunday's season finale.

Game notes
Giants C Eliezer Alfonzo left in the fourth with dizziness
after getting hit by a foul tip. ... Los Angeles has won four
straight in the rivalry. ... The Dodgers set a franchise record for
doubles in a season with 305. The 1930 Brooklyn Dodgers hit 303
doubles. ... LHP Eric Stults will start Sunday for the Dodgers.