Friday, October 09, 2009


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.



Jason Bellamy said...

"It hit him right in the groin. I hope he's wearing a cup."

Why can't ESPN guys be that blunt (not to mention accurate)? As a Giants fan, I can't allow myself to watch beyond the 3 minute mark, but I love me a taste of Scully.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I completely understand, Jason. I had actually envisioned how Game 1 might have gotten away when Broxton gave up the run in the ninth on Wednesday, so the pain of a blown save is one I was so grateful not to have to feel on either day.

But you are right-- Scully is great. His other painfully truthful line of the moment comes a bit later... "And there stands Matt Holliday, the loneliest man in Los Angeles..."

ESPN guys would be falling all over themselves trying to outclever one another with that moment and they'd never get close to Scully's economy and precision. And speaking of which, Chris Berman calling the Rockies-Phillies on the radio may be the worst play-by-play I've ever heard. I hate to say this, but I'd probably rather hear Rex Hudler.

Deb said...

Another thing I miss about L.A.: Vin Scully.

Re last night's game, to quote my husband: "If St. Louis ends up losing the series, Holliday is going to be this generation's Bill Buckner."

Adam Zanzie said...

We in St. Louis are having a difficult time recovering! In the same day we suffered losses from the St. Louis Blues (our hockey team) and the Mizzou Tigers (the University of Missouri college football team).

Add it all up and you get the worst day ever in Missouri sports history.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Deb: I have to admit, the name "Bill Buckner" crossed my mind a couple of times last night too. If this turns out to be the pivotal moment not only of Game 2, but the emotional blow that takes the collective wind out of the Cardinals and paves the way for a Saturday sweep in Game 3, or even in Game 4 (against Carpenter on three days rest, I would guess), then Holliday may well have earned that mantle. But right now it's a bit too early for him to, as Vinny worded it, put on the goat horns for an extended spell, especially as the Cardinals defense, with Pujols slumping, pretty much seems to boil down to him.

Adam: I do feel your pain. Kind of a lot to swallow in one day. I wouldn't have expected the Dodgers to have this kind of success against this highly touted 1-2 punch (and really, they beat Carpenter but they didn't beat Wainwright), so maybe they'll have a tougher time with Pineiro, who isn't expected to huff and puff and blow their house down so easily. Such is baseball. Of course I hope their success continues, but no one could have predicted these first two wins with any credibility, so it stands to reason neither team is in for a laugher either.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

And really, speaking of goats, Holliday is front and center here because of the agonizing error, endlessly replayed over the past 24 hours on ESPN, MLB TV and everywhere else. But really, the Cardinals, even after that error, were still only one out away from a win.

Who was it who couldn't find the strike zone, who couldn't find a way to put Casey Blake down, who threw a pitch in the dirt that was screwy enough to get past Cardinal catcher Molina, who gave up Belliard's game-tying single, who then walked Russell Martin to get to the guy he had absolutely owned for 15 at-bats, Mark Loretta, and who then tossed the over-matched Loretta exactly two pitches before the game was chalked up as the most improbable, important Dodger comeback win of the year?

Not Holliday. He opened the door, true, but Cardinal closer Ryan Franklin is the one that kept it ajar long enough for the Dodgers to capitalize. Franklin is a much stronger candidate for the beard and horns, I think.

le0pard13 said...

This-was-just-fantastic, Dennis. And we've been so lucky to have had Scully as the voice of the Dodger for so long. The man could announce the garbage being taken out to the street and he'd make it the most thrilling and poignant moment in sport, he's that great. Thanks, Dennis.

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