Sure, it might be the injuries. Sure, it might be a weakness exploited, or a mistake easily predicted.
But when I think about the ways that the Dodgers have fallen short of their postseason dreams, I think things that should never have happened but did anyway. I think of Old Reliables stumbling when it was least expected.
I think of Rafael Furcal making an error to start the bottom of the sixth inning in Game 1 of the 2008 National League Championship Series, with the Dodgers leading 2-0 behind Derek Lowe in their first game after sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series. Long before Chad Billingsley, Corey Wade or Jonathan Broxton got into a game, Furcal’s error gave the series an instant U-turn, opening the door for three runs and a series-opening loss.
- Derek Lowe gives up two home runs in the fourth inning.
And still, the Dodgers were in the game.
- Lowe surrenders a two-run double in the sixth inning.
And still, the Dodgers were in the game, thanks to Mets manager Willie Randolph’s ill-chosen decision to let reliever Guillermo Mota bat with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth.
- Julio Lugo is chosen to pinch-hit with two runners on in the seventh inning – and strikes out.
And still, the Dodgers were in the game. In fact, they tied it later in the inning.
- Struggling Brad Penny is brought in to relieve in the bottom of the seventh, instead of Jonathan Broxton (we saw this coming), walks two and allows two runs.
And still, the Dodgers were in the game. But hope was fading. Down 6-4, the Dodgers got the tying run to second base in the ninth, with Nomar Garciappara at the plate. But Garciaparra, who doubled in the tying runs in the seventh, couldn’t bring him home.
I also think of Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS, with their record-setting ace Orel Hershiser on the mound riding an historic scoreless innings streak, three outs away from a 2-0 victory. And then sudden as a car crash, three runs shoot across the plate.
Only the Dodgers came back and won the series. And heaven love ‘em, the next one.
Everyone’s looking for the edges in the matchup between the Dodgers and the Braves that begins tonight, but it’s all a waste of time. Both teams are completely capable of winning. But only one will execute their plays better than the other, only one will find that way to dig deep and overcome its mistakes. That’s the team that will win, and there’s no predicting. Vigilance and resilience will carry the day.