The roar returned. The building jumped. The fans forgave.
A day after Enrique Hernandez criticized the Dodger Stadium crowd for its lack of energy, hours after he apologized for that critique, Chavez Ravine was filled Tuesday with the noisy joy of amends.
Fans were chanting, “Let’s Go Dod-gers’’ even before the first pitch. They were oohing every big swing, screaming at every big Dodger pitch, howling at every Milwaukee Brewer move.
The energy was real. The Dodgers fed on it, were fueled by it, and eventually flew with it, all the way back into this National League Championship Series with a hit that brought the house down.
In the 13th inning of Game 4, ending a night that lasted more than five hours, an exhausted Cody Bellinger found the strength to muscle a two-out, full-count slider from Junior Guerra past first base and into right field to score Manny Machado from second base to give the Dodgers a 2-1 victory and even the series at two games apiece.
The Dodgers were so excited, they jumped their dugout railing and ran toward home plate almost before Machado — who had earlier singled and taken second on a wild pitch — actually scored the winning run.
“Honestly I didn’t even see them,’’ said Machado. “I put my head down, trying to pick up the ball at the end and try to sneak in there.’’
The Dodgers then turned their attention to Bellinger, chasing him down in the outfield, with even manager Dave Roberts joining the shirt-tearing scrum.
“It’s probably a feeling you won’t forget, seeing your guys chase after you,’’ said Bellinger.
This victory could also turn this series into something the Dodgers won’t forget. They will play Game 5 Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, and they had no doubt how this matchup has tilted.
“We’ve got Kershaw on the mound… we like our chances,’’ said Bellinger, who also rescued the Dodgers with his glove with a diving catch in right field in the 10th inning. “It’s going to be another fun game.’’
The game-ending scene Tuesday was made complete by who was cheering for it. Most of the huge Dodger Stadium crowd stuck around for the final hit, which came shortly before 11:30 p.m, fans screaming as loud as they have screamed all season.
Yes, folks, the Dodgers noticed.
‘’The fans were in it the whole game, the energy was great,’’ said Chris Taylor, whose sliding catch in left field in the seventh inning helped save the night. ‘’I felt like they were behind us the whole game, they were awesome.’’
On a night when the Dodger offense went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, in a game where Machado again acted like a bit of a jerk before his late heroics, the real winners were indeed those fans.
They lived out the word on their souvenir towels – “Determined.’’ They spent most of the game on their feet. At one point, a bass drum player jumped on the Dodgers dugout and the fans clapped to his beat.
When Hernandez came to the plate in the first inning to the sounds of Justin Bieber’s song, “Sorry’’, they made so much noise – no specific cheer, just raw noise – that Chavez Ravine sounded like a train station. And when their villain Yasmani Grandal came to the plate in the 11th, one night after he was badly booed, those fans gave him a loud ovation. Of course, they booed him when he struck out again, but can you blame them?
Those fans didn’t deserve to be critiqued by Hernandez after Monday night’s deadening Game 2 loss – “The stadium had no energy, the fans had no energy’’ – and fully deserved his later contrition.
Hernandez apologized to fans in a message posted on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, claiming his quotes were taken out of context and noted, ‘what I said last night doesn’t portray the way I truly feel about you guys…I love you guys and I’ll never stop being grateful for the way that you have embraced the weirdo that I am!’’
Before the game, Roberts defended Hernandez, saying, “We all know [Enrique] is very emotional. He cares about winning and his work in the community and his interaction with the fans is unprecedented, is well documented. So I know we feels we’re all in it together as far as players, coaches, fans.’’
Roberts, however, also defended the fan’s right to express themselves, saying, “It’s not ideal. I think here at home you’re doing your best, and to get booed is tough. They have a right. The fans have a right to do what they feel and voice their frustration.’’
You know who should have been booed Tuesday? That would be Machado, who caused the oddest of all sights, a bench-clearing incident in the 10th inning. It happened when Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar objected to the way Machado seemingly intentionally clipped his leg while running out a groundout. It wasn’t the first time Machado has taken a physical shot at the Brewers this series — in Game 3 he was called for runner interference when he slid out of the baseline hard into shortstop Orlando Arcia. This time, benches briefly cleared before the incident ended with no punches thrown.
Yet afterward, the Brewers Christian Yelich said, ‘’It’s a dirty play by a dirty player’’ — but Machado just shrugged.
“I was trying to get over him and hit his foot…if that’s dirty, that’s dirty, I don’t know, call it what you want,’’ Machado said.
The Dodgers are better than that, and should probably keep Machado’s erratic postseason behavior in mind when considering whether to keep him when he becomes an expensive free agent this winter. Remember in Game 2 when he stopped running hard to first base on a ground out?
“I don’t think he’s playing all that hard,’’ said Brewers Manager Craig Counsell Tuesday night in a fairly stunning rebuke.
On a slog of a night, it only figured that the Dodgers once-maligned bullpen kept them in the game. The relievers took over from starter Rich Hill in the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie and performed brilliantly, stranding Brewers in scoring position in the seventh, ninth and 10th innings, eight pitchers combining to throw eight scoreless innings. It figures that the winning pitcher was Julio Urias, making just his fifth appearance this season after recovering from shoulder surgery, throwing one scoreless inning worth after being rocked for an Aguilar homer earlier this series.
“This year nothing is easy for us, we’re grinding,’’ said Kenley Jansen, who threw 34 pitches in two scoreless innings. “Today, we grind again.’’
On a night when a city grinded with them, the ugliness of Monday night became the beauty of Tuesday, a series tied, a connection renewed.