The Dodger fans sat stunned in their seats Monday night. They didn’t know quite how to react. It was as if they were waiting for the punch line.
They watched the usual routine. The Dodgers fell behind early. Rallied slowly. Looked like they were going to lose in extra innings. Tied the game in extra innings. Were poised to win.
But then a crazy thing happened.
The Dodgers didn’t win.
The Chicago Cubs, taking away the last Dodger miracle, pulled out a 5-4, 11-inning victory in front of a disbelieving paid crowd of 39,476 at Dodger Stadium.
Brian McRae won it with a single that scored Todd Haney from second.
The Dodgers (54-47), trailing, 3-0, in the first inning and, 4-3, in the 10th, had the Cubs right where they wanted them.
Cub All-Star closer Randy Myers, after getting the first two outs, gave up a single to rookie Roger Cedeno. Next up was pinch-hitter Carlos Hernandez (.132), the next-to-last man on the Dodger bench. No problem. He slapped a single up the middle.
Next up, Chad Fonville, whose 10th inning error kept the Cubs alive and set up Howard Johnson’s two-out, run-scoring single for a 4-3 lead.
Fonville, falling behind 1-and-0, hit the next pitch off Myers’ leg, and it caromed into left field, scoring Cedeno. Jose Offerman walked to load the bases, but Mike Piazza hit a pop-up to Myers, sending the game into the 11th.
Before the game, the confident Dodgers were not saying the division race is over, but they have received permission to begin printing playoff tickets and have no doubts that they’ll come in use in October.
“It’s been a lot of fun coming to the ballpark,” said Dodger first baseman Eric Karros, who was hit in the jaw and knocked down in a collision in the eighth inning, but remained in the game. “I remember putting up numbers in ’92 and winning the rookie of the year, but shoot, our goal that year was just not to lose 100 games. It was miserable.
“There were a lot of expectations from the beginning, but until the All-Star break, we were just playing .500 ball. I don’t know if people had time to think about things during the All-Star break or what, but we’ve been a different team.
“You can see the confidence, and we’re playing as well defensively as we have all year. That can’t be overlooked.”
The Dodgers, who last were eight games above .500 at the end of the 1991 season, have already made up their greatest second-half deficit since the club moved to Los Angeles.
Their latest game was just another typical comeback affair. The Dodgers found themselves losing, 3-0, in the first inning after Sammy Sosa’s three-run homer, the 10,000th home run in Cub history.
Hey, no problem.
They scored a run in the bottom of the first on Roberto Kelly’s two-out, single, got another in the third inning on a groundout by Piazza, who later extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. And tied the game in the fourth on Cedeno’s first career run batted in.
In the sixth inning, the Cubs had runners on second and third with none out and the heart of their order due up.
Dodger starter Tom Candiotti took a deep breath and struck out Sosa.
He struck out Todd Zeile.
And after an intentional walk to Luis Gonzalez, he induced a fly ball to center from Haney for the final out.