Top of the fourth, the Cards get one back to make it 3-2, but in the bottom of the fifth, we extend the lead back to 4-2 on a Rafael Furcal sacrifice fly (scoring Ronnie Belliard, whose single and eventual run scored this inning sort of atoned for the first-inning ball he couldn't field (and likely would have scored a run anyway had he caught it, unless a charging Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier could have nabbed the ball and thrown home)).
And then in the sixth inning, Kyle McClellan goes ahead and plunks Russell Martin to walk in a fifth run. Now, where's that midwestern politeness about which we've heard so much? Is that any way for a proper guest to behave?
But while I watched the Dodgers assert themselves right back (perhaps fueled by the multiple DiamondVision montages of Los Angeles Lakers players encouraging us onward), I couldn't help but notice that the concourse behind me was relatively empty during innings. I don't think I've seen that at Dodger Stadium in quite a while, and it definitely goes against all the media stereotypes about Dodger fans being at the game for the show (while Cardinals fans would be good baseball people in their seats watching the game). No, we were all focused on the game, too. There was NO WAITING at some of these concession stands--because everyone was cheering on the Dodgers in the stands. Standing up and clapping for two-strike counts. Roaring when we retired the side. It was an impressive collective effort from our hometown crowd, and I am sure the Dodgers fed off the vibe.
And I was cheering along with all of them. The guy next to me who wouldn't slap hands, but always offered his fist. The Cardinals fan and his Dodger father, both of whom ended up being nice people even if one wasn't rooting for the right team. The family who drove all the way from Santa Barbara, whose eight-year-old kid tried valiantly to stay awake (made easier by the fact I was scaring the hell out of him by screaming at something every five minutes), until he finally collapsed in his mom's arms.
And the big guy two rows in front of me who kept telling me "you don't question Joe Torre!", even when Torre was making pitching changes at a rapid pace, and with unusual timing, that seemed to out-LaRussa Tony LaRussa himself. Pulling Randy Wolf in the fourth inning, for Jeff Weaver of all people? Leaving Hong-Chih Kuo in when he started to struggle in the seventh? Yanking George Sherrill after only two outs in the eighth, in order to bring in Jonathan Broxton a bit early? All of these moves merited conversation and concern at the time, yet all of them ended up being good calls. A lot of credit to Torre, and to our amazing bullpen, for responding to unconventional circumstances in its typical Kevorkian committee fashion.
The other coach who got a lot of questions from our section (admittedly, we were on the opposite side of the diamond) was Larry Bowa, who seemed to hold runners at third at a pace not unlike Dodger scoring bulwark Glenn Hoffman. Fourth inning, Andre Ethier on first, and Manny Ramirez doubles--and Ethier is held at third (and does not end up scoring that inning). Sixth inning, Ethier on second, and James Loney singles to left--and Ethier is again held at third (and only scores when Martin is plunked later that inning, forcing Ethier in). Both times, I thought Ethier could have scored, but I'll put my trust in Bowa. Perhaps getting thrown out at the plate would have shifted momentum too much to risk with a small lead; I don't know. Guarded credit to Bowa (though I'm sure he would scream and yell his counter-opinion back at me otherwise, and convince me that I'm wrong).
Oh yeah, and "Bat Flip" Kuo also happens to be the first Taiwanese-born player to hit a home run in MLB history (thanks DiamondVision, and Ken Gurnick. 412-footer, at that.
And, he earned the win in that game!
Hong-Chih Kuo wiggled out of danger in the top of the seventh inning, with Yadier Molina on second and Mark DeRosa on first, when he got pinch hitter Troy Glaus to strike out swinging:
Eighth inning, here comes the Don't Stop Believing Guy. Except this time, it didn't have the same frenzy-inducing vibe that he usually emits. Was it because he wasn't in his normal seats? Was it because the video shows he might have some competition? Was it because his act might be getting a little stale, and needs an updating of material? I like him, and I hope he can reinvent himself for the playoffs, but you be the judge:
As an aside, can anyone explain this emblem to me? Is it Shepherd Fairey? (Update from SoSG reader Mr. Customer: it is.)
Back to this one. Final score, Dodgers 5, Cardinals 3. The win was glorious, and pleasantly surprising. And I was lucky to be there to see and experience it for myself. It was almost as if the baseball gods were smiling down on us. Maybe those gods are Dodger fans, too?