Dammit, if my only hope is to come back home from a Dodger game and post about immediately in order to beat Jon Weisman to press time, I'd run the risk of getting divorced. But I was there too last night, and it was an amazing spectacle at which to be. And though Jon's recap was good, I feel the need to add my own thoughts to the dogpile celebration...
As my wife remarked to me, as we finally took our seats having left late and getting crushed in traffic (stop overselling the preferred parking lots, Frank, it's really not cool considering we're floating you the money months in advance and you've already jacked the parking price up 100% since you've gotten here)--"the Stadium has a different type of energy tonight. And she's not talking about fluorescent bulbs in the concourse.
No, the stadium was rocking, at what felt like a sellout even though only fewer than 45,000 were tallied for attendance. Maybe it's because the season ticket holders, who are counted in that total whether they're there or not, actually showed up. Maybe it's because it's the final homestand and the penultimate regular season home game.
Maybe it was because they showed the final five greatest moments in Los Angeles Dodgers history up on the scoreboard, and when they finally reached the highlight that everyone had been waiting for, they wisely showed the WHOLE highlight, including Mike Davis' ball four, Gibson's hobbled entrance, and each one of his historic at-bat's pitches (which demonstrate how pained he must have been). Vin Scully provided all the audio, and when the highlight reached its climax with the home run, they piped in music from The Natural, and the whole stadium erupted. This, from a grainy highlight 20 years ago, bringing chills to spines young and old.
Or, maybe the increased energy was because the evening was magical and the Dodgers were rocking. Jeff Kent's return from the disabled list earned a standing ovation, and from our third base field level seats, I even caught him smiling as he returned to the dugout after his hit and pinch-runner replacement. Rafael Furcal's announcement also brought the crowd to his feet, and it was so good to see that sparkplug back, even if the tightness in his back was apparent to the naked eye.
Kershaw pitched a pretty good game, almost lasting six innings with 3 ER, and he was wisely removed after 91 pitches rather than saving him to fight through the sixth with a slender 4-3 lead.
Garciaparra, once again, is so clutch, it's almost silly. I vowed earlier this year that his incredible storybook exploits have earned him, at least in my mind, a pass on all the criticism about his brittle body, prolonged slumps, and dwindling defensive range. The fact of the matter is, his solo home run in the fourth was a message that the Dodgers were not going quietly last night, despite the Padres' first blood, and his run-scoring double deep to the wall added another exclamation point before he was rested early. Gotta love the Nomar, who got the crowd started.
And Manny--well, what more can you say? His two-run home run was such a laser shot, such a no-doubt-about-it-he-got-it, that I suspect even Charley Steiner probably got the home run call right this time. He swings with such force, and it's so clear that there's been no one as feared as him in the Dodgers' lineup since Gary Sheffield in his prime (or possibly Adrian Beltre in 2004). Shawn Green hit home runs, but they never got the same sort of impact as these Ramirez bombs. He's a force, and the crowd eats him up.
Matt Kemp has a good night in the leadoff slot again, going 3-for-6. Russell Martin goes 2-for-3 in the two hole, where he looks more comfortable than atop the lineup. Andre Ethier bats cleanup and goes 2-for-4 with a RBI. James Loney comes in late and gets a pair of RBI. Even Juan Pierre gets a pinch hit, and Chin-Lung Hu gets a double. What is going on here?! Is this potency even possible in a Dodgers lineup?
Oh yeah, and Mark Sweeney went 0-for-1, stranding two to end the inning, and is now batting .133. So at least that hasn't changed.
But there was a different type of energy last night, and it was great to be there and see it. I high-fived the nice gentleman behind me on every run scored, which became a lucky ritual after a while, and a stranger quickly became a friend. The temperature outdoors was perfect, not too hot or too cold. I got my two beers, my nachos, and my Louisiana hot sausage; even my chocolate malt guy appeared at the right time (sixth inning, in aisle; one for my wife and one for me). We sang Take Me Out To The Ballgame with 45,000 of our closest friends. It was perfect.
This was my last regular-season game of the year.
And I can't wait to get back.
Let's go, Dodgers!