Late tonight one of the most improbable games I ever heard of was played between the Dodgers and the Padres.
Let me back up a bit. The Padres had been chasing the Dodgers in the NL West for an entire month, edging closer and closer until they were only half a game back heading into this weekend’s climactic four game showdown. Staying true to form, the Padres continued their dominance of the Dodgers this season in head to head matchups (13-5), taking two out of the first three games to finally overtake the Dodgers and snatch a half game lead going into Monday’s final game.
Things looked pretty normal for most of the game. In yet another closely fought contest, the Padres yet again were just a bit better than the Dodgers and eeked out a 6-5 lead heading into the ninth. In a desperation move, the Dodgers brought in their ace closer, Takashi Saito, to preserve the one-run deficit. Whereupon Saito promptly melted down and let in 3 runs in the top of the ninth.
The Dodgers were now down 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth, and it was looking like a laugher and a 1 1/2 game lead in the west for the Padres. But then, the Dodgers caught lightning in a bottle. Jeff Kent and JD Drew hit back to back solo homers leading off the inning to narrow the gap to 9-7. This against jon Adkins, who had only allowed one home run all season in 51 innings pitched. Bruce Bochy now pulled Adkins and brought on closer Trevor Hoffman, who has been virtually untouchable against the Dodgers over his career – 55 for 57 in saves, 28 consecutive saves, had not blown a save against the Dodgers in five years. With the bases empty and still down two runs, things once again looked grim for the Dodgers.
But amazingly enough, the next two batters, lineup bottom-feeders Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson, each hit a solo home run as well against one of the greatest closers of all time. Four consecutive solo home runs leading off the ninth to erase a four run deficit! Only the third time any team in major league history has hit four homers in a row! Ridiculous!
The Dodgers’ fans, notorious for leaving early, came streaming back in from the parking lots when they heard the volume of the cheers.
However, no sooner had the game become tied, did Trevor Hoffman remember he was Trevor Hoffman and quickly retire the next three batters in order.
It was now 9-9. Extra Innings.
The Dodgers now had new hope, but it was immediately quenched when the Padres promptly scored a run of Aaron Sele in the top of the 10th inning to go ahead 10-9.
To the bottom of the 10th. Kenny Lofton works a 3-2 count and then takes an extremely close pitch and up comes Nomar Garciaparra. Yes, Nomar, who shouldn’t even be playing due to a torn ligament in his knee and a torn muscle in his calf, and hasn’t shown any life in his bat in months, and is barely above the Mendoza line since the All-Star break, but who somehow convinced Grady Little to let him start this game after having been benched for the past week.
So naturally he hits a game winning, walk-off, two-run home run. Shades of Kirk Gibson, he is so hobbled that he can barely make it all the way around the bases on his own power. Dodgers win, 11-10. They lead the division once again by half a game.
Don’t go anywhere folks. At least out West, there is still a lot of baseball left to be played.