It’s as Much Fun as They Can Stand
The season lives.
It bloops, it bobbles, it bounces, it gasps, it stumbles around third base as it rounds toward home.
But it lives.
For the second time in eight days, the Dodgers on Thursday scared away a baseball game dressed in black robe and scythe.
For the second time, they have grabbed the ankles of the San Francisco Giants and, ever dusty and ragged, have refused to let go.
Odalis Perez danced, Dave Roberts raked, Brian Jordan owned, the Dodgers took a 6-3 decision at Dodger Stadium, and now things really get nuts.
“The emotion gets going,” said Jordan, “and it really gets fun.”
Nine games remaining. The Dodgers trailing the Giants by one game. A wild, wild-card race.
Jim Tracy biting his lips white, Dusty Baker chewing his toothpick to splinters, everybody waiting for the fastball and staring at the scoreboard.
Six months boiled down to barely a week, and who has the edge?
The Dodgers board a bus today for three games in San Diego, then host the Padres and Colorado Rockies for the final six.
The Giants flew all night for three games in Milwaukee, then host the Houston Astros and Padres for five.
“I hope there’s a delay, I hope there’s plane problems and they can’t get off the ground,” said Eric Karros. “I have no sympathy for them.”
But if the margin is one-half game at the end of the regular season ... then the Giants play a final game in Atlanta on Sept. 30, a makeup of an earlier rain-forced tie.
The playoff-bound Braves would probably start a minor leaguer, and Gary Sheffield would no doubt take a nap.
Because the Dodgers refused to change Thursday’s game to an afternoon starting time--and do you blame them?--the Giants will not arrive in Milwaukee until around 6 a.m. today.
But for the next three games, because Milwaukee is in the Central time zone, the Giants will be playing at least two hours earlier than the Dodgers.
In fact, because of odd starting times, on Saturday and Sunday the Giants will be playing three hours in front of the Dodgers, so their game will probably be finished before the Dodgers start.
In 1991, the last time the Dodgers were in a pennant race this juicy, this was a bad thing.
The Braves caught and passed the Dodgers during the final week of that season by winning games in the Eastern time zone ... and watching the Dodgers crumble under the pressure of later trying to match them.
And so it will go, for the next 10 or 11 delicious days, two evenly matched teams waiting for the other one to blink.
The Dodgers’ starting rotation is doubled over. It consists of two pitchers.
The Giants’ veteran batting order is wilting. It consists of two hitters.
The Dodgers shouldn’t be here. The Giants shouldn’t be here.
Would you rather be anywhere else?
One game from virtual elimination Thursday, the Dodgers scrapped back with a couple of the only punches they have left.
“If we lose this game, we’re three games down and out of the race,” said Perez.
Yeah, he was one of those punches. One of their two remaining reliable starting pitchers blasted salsa music in the afternoon, then twirled through the Giants at night, surviving two first-inning walks to shut them down with a shrug.
And a complete game, too.
Yep, no weary Eric Gagne, or struggling Paul Shuey, or one-batter Jesse Orosco, or some kid from Las Vegas.
Perez didn’t have enough to finish but he finished anyway, 119 pitches, three runs, two on a ninth-inning homer by Reggie Sanders, no regrets.
Said Perez: “Maybe in the end, it wasn’t there, but my guys in the bullpen needed a rest, so they got one.”
Said Tracy: “Tonight we found out a whole lot about the character of this guy.”
Then there was Jordan, who is proving again this month why his appearance, coupled with Sheffield’s departure, was like trading bright orange for deep blue.
Everything about Sheffield but his mouth grew smaller in September. Everything about Jordan is huge.
His three-run double down the third-base line Thursday highlighted the Dodgers’ six-run inning, but that’s not even the best thing he did this week.
On Monday, he hit a grand slam that gave the Dodgers the lead in a victory. On Tuesday, he broke up a double play with the best NFL tackle in this town in eight years.
Jordan has 24 RBIs in 18 September games. Last September and October, Sheffield only drove us crazy.
“It is great to get production out of a position where we weren’t so fortunate last year,” said Tracy, biting that lip again.
Now, if only he can get that same production this weekend from struggling Andy Ashby and Omar Daal.
“You’re hearing questions about this team--do they have the resiliency?” Tracy said. “A lot of that has to with Andy and Omar stepping up.”
Too late to step back. Too late to hide. Nine games, nine lives, last breaths.
“Yeah,” said Tracy, cracking a tiny smile. “Fun.”
Bill Plaschke can be reached at email@example.com.