What an exciting, rewarding finish to tonight’s Dodger game for fans scarred by their trips to Philadelphia in the past several years.
With the score tied 3-3, oft-maligned shortstop Dee Gordon’s second hit of the game was a triple to lead off the ninth inning. Listening to the play in my car, I had dreams of him rounding the bases for a game-winning inside-the-park home run, but I had barely had time to be disappointed that he only made it to third base, because Elian Herrera hit the very next pitch from Jonathan Papelbon for a single to score Gordon and break the tie.
The bottom of the ninth began with the Dodgers leading by the same score that they marked the start of the final frame of the heartbreaking Game 4 of the 2009 National League Championship series. The echo reverberated in my brain. Kenley Jansen struck out the first batter, but the second hit a sinking line drive, recalling a similar ninth-inning shot by Gary Carter off Orel Hershiser that turned around Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS.
Herrera, the hero from Nowhereville finding himself in center field tonight only because Tony Gwynn Jr. was a mid-day scratch, came charging in and glided into a dive, snaring the ball without a care in the world. Two out.
Jansen then went 3-1 to Hector Luna, moving within one pitch of putting the tying run on base. But Jansen blew Luna away on two cutters, and the Dodgers had a big win in Philadelphia, 4-3.
The reaction to the Dodgers’ recent losing stretch (six of seven, eight of 11) has been predictable and understandable, if unpleasant. Insecurities about the team have come out, and there’s a reason those insecurities are there. The 2012 Dodgers barely looked like a playoff team with Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp at full strength. With Kemp on the disabled list, Kershaw struggling to avoid the meltdown inning and other problems materializing, it’s understandable to wonder how long they can hold things together. Put them in a stadium that’s not far from a chamber of horrors for Los Angeles, and tempers are going to be short and not sweet.
We can all see the weaknesses. And so when they overcome them, it’s just so damn pleasing.