So much to think about, to process, so many vocal cords already in need of healing, and we’re only two games into the NLDS. Watching the Dodgers go down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth last night, facing a 2-1 deficit against the Cardinals, apparent winners of a well-pitched, hard-fought game that by all statistical logic they should have won, was a trip to the darkest recesses of the valley for this follower of the Blue. Ethier was taken care of by a Cardinals lefty specialist who was then replaced by closer Ryan Franklin, who induced a deep fly out from Manny Ramirez, and now Dodger Fan could be forgiven for chalking up the team's chances of pulling this one out of the fire to less than shining. I was dutifully watching the game from the dining table, peering over the screen of my laptop as I paid a few bills off the family ledger, and I remembering exhaling and trying to form thoughts that would make swallowing a 1-1 series going back to St. Louis a little easier. And here it was, the short liner to left field off the bat of James Loney, the final out.
Destined to be absorbed into the gaping maw of Matt Holliday’s glove to end the game, physics and bad luck seemed to conspire to change the story as they changed the final resting place of that fly ball. Instead of getting gobbled up by Holliday, the ball squeaked over his glove and pounded him either in the bread basket, or perhaps a region slightly further to the south, the act of trying to gain possession of it throwing the fielder’s equilibrium into the tank and sending him flying face first into the shaded evening grass. Instead of a trip to the showers, Loney got two bases out of that swing. Suddenly, in addition to the bank of stadium lights (Holliday’s explanation for his costly error) or a sea of Dodger fans waving white towels (Wainwright’s rationalization for Holliday’s troubles, which is not borne out by the video replay—Dodgers fans seemed to have been waving them after Holiday dropped the ball, but not in the dark, seemingly inevitable downer moments immediately before), the Cardinals had the first glimmer of the headlights of a postseason freight train shining in their eyes. A walk to Blake. Belliard lines a single over second base to score Juan Pierre, pinch-running for Loney. The game is tied. With first base open, Franklin walks Martin to get to Mark Loretta, Dodger utility man with a record of 0-15 against the closer. Loretta dumps one into center field for a game-winning base hit. Game over. It’s a true wonder my neighbors didn’t call the police, and a real blessing that my wife and daughters were out at a concert so they were spared the sight of the man of the house jumping on the furniture and inviting some sort of coronary capper to the evening.
But don’t take my dry account for it. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there, if you missed it on TV, or if you just want to relive it a few times between now and Saturday afternoon, here’s the irreplaceable Vin Scully calling the events on another night where the improbable and the impossible intersected and became indelible for Dodger fans. Baseball can be cruel and unforgiving and damningly unpredictable—just ask Tony La Russa. But it can be glorious too, and even if this is the last great moment of the season for the Dodgers it will have been worth it. But I’m betting this is far from the last.