Pirates score four in the ninth to defeat Dodgers
Rafael Furcal was in his street clothes and about to leave the locker room.
“I’m going to the hotel, man,” he said.
Looking up at the television monitor showing the Colorado Rockies’ game against the St. Louis Cardinals, he said, “I don’t care about that game. I care about us.”
In particular, himself.
Furcal made one of the Dodgers’ two errors in a four-run ninth inning for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who came back from a three-run deficit to emerge with a 6-5 walk-off victory Sunday at PNC Park.
Had the Dodgers held on to the lead they took in the ninth inning, the National League West title would have been theirs. Instead, they had to cross the Clemente Bridge and go to bed Sunday night with the matter still unsettled.
But not before enduring some more torture.
Furcal was walking down the hallway leading out of the clubhouse when Ronnie Belliard shouted to him in Spanish.
“You’re really leaving?” Belliard said. “If they lose, we have to celebrate.”
Already assured of a place in the postseason, the Dodgers had learned Sunday morning that their magic number to win the division was one and not two. Baseball officials hadn’t realized that the Dodgers held the tiebreaker over the second-place Colorado Rockies by virtue of their 12-3 record in head-to-head games. Another win by the Dodgers or a loss by the Rockies would ensure the Dodgers of finishing the regular season with at least the same record as the Rockies and the division title.
Furcal walked back into the near-silent room and took a seat next to Belliard.
Orlando Hudson was perched in his locker. Jason Repko, Chad Billingsley and Blake DeWitt sat in folding chairs next to Furcal and Belliard.
Hiroki Kuroda sat alone on the opposite side of the clubhouse.
Bench coach Bob Schaefer, assistant coach Mark Sweeney, bullpen catcher Mike Borzello, Jeff Weaver and Ramon Troncoso sat on sofas in the middle of the room. Hong-Chih Kuo sat on the floor, his shoulder and elbow wrapped in ice.
Some of the players fidgeted with their mobile phones. Everyone else had their eyes on the television monitor.
The Rockies won.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Manny Ramirez told Furcal.
Belliard, Guillermo Mota, Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario walked out with them.
The Dodgers were so close to clinching the title.
Facing closer Matt Capps, the Dodgers ended a 2-2 stalemate in the ninth inning on a run-scoring single by Russell Martin. The Dodgers added two runs, including one on a passed ball by Robinson Diaz that increased their lead to 5-2.
But with none out and runners on first and second in the bottom half of the inning, Furcal couldn’t cleanly field a potential double-play ball and had to settle for a force-out at second base. The next ball in play was also hit his way, a run-scoring infield hit by Andy LaRoche with men on the corners. Furcal made a rushed throw to second base that ended up in shallow right field.
Closer Jonathan Broxton intentionally walked Garrett Jones to load the bases -- first base was open -- but Lastings Milledge lined a single to right-center field in the next at-bat. The score-tying hit turned into a bases-clearing, walk-off play when right fielder Andre Ethier mishandled the ball.
In the clubhouse, Manager Joe Torre said he wouldn’t mind securing the division title with a Colorado loss.
Weaver said something similar when that defeat didn’t materialize.
“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter how it happens as long as you make it happen,” Weaver said. “In my mind, I wouldn’t have cared.”