Commentary: Dodgers fans, MLB’s best, deserved Game 4 win and deserve more home games

Fans in the pavilion reach for a two-run home run ball hit by Will Smith in the eighth inning of the Dodgers' 7-2 win.
Fans reach for a two-run home run hit by Will Smith in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 7-2 win over the Giants in Game 4 of the NLDS on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

That one was for you, Dodgers fans. We’ll gather together here again.

Next week? Or next season?

On Thursday night, we’ll find out. Baseball’s best fan base deserves another home game this year.

On an evening equal parts nervous and raucous, with the Dodgers making the least of early opportunities before wearing down the San Francisco Giants, the fans were elated, exhausted and exhilarated.


The excitement descended from the top deck to the owner’s box. Dodgers chairman Mark Walter hopped onto the field after the final out, exchanging high-fives and fist bumps with players as they headed for the dugout.

If you are a fan of a team that does not play in October, the last home game is like the last day of school. You can circle that last day on your calendar. Get your yearbooks signed, get your baseballs signed, see you next year.

If you are a fan of a postseason team, the season can come to a sudden and heartbreaking stop. In 2019, the last year the Dodgers played the postseason before their fans, the end came rudely, almost unbelievably: Joe Kelly pitching, Kenley Jansen not pitching, and Howie Kendrick hitting a 10th-inning grand slam.

For the 2021 Dodgers, the team that tied the franchise record with 106 wins, the end could have come last Wednesday in the wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Desperate for offense and top-notch pitching, the Dodgers win big on their lineup gambles to defeat the San Francisco Giants 7-2 in NLDS Game 4.

The end could have come Tuesday night, with the team’s bitterest rival in position to turn out the lights on their season. But the Dodgers won their second elimination game in seven days, beating the San Francisco Giants and distilling this National League Division Series into a single game Thursday at Oracle Park. The winner advances to the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.

It is too bad that Thursday’s game cannot be played at Dodger Stadium. The Giants earned the home-field advantage, winning 107 games in the regular season.

But the most amazing statistic in this post-pandemic major league season is this: The Dodgers could not play to full capacity until June 15, and still they very nearly sold 3 million tickets.

With one more four-game weekend series, they would have gotten there. The attendance total: 2,804,693.

The San Diego Padres, born in 1969, have hit 2.8 million twice — in 2004 and 2005, the first two years of Petco Park.

San Francisco Giants right fielder Kris Bryant looks up as fans try to catch a two-run home run.
Giants right fielder Kris Bryant looks up as fans try to catch a two-run home run hit by the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts in the fourth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The last non-strike year the Dodgers failed to hit 2.8 million was 1987, when they lost 89 games and general manager Al Campanis lost his job after saying on national television that Blacks “may not have some of the necessities” to run a team.

That is not a knock on fans of the Padres, a team that plays in a smaller market and has struggled to field a consistent winner. In the last pre-pandemic season, 21 of 30 teams sold fewer than 2.8 million tickets.

Consider this, however: The Dodgers sold an average of 34,625 tickets this year. No other team topped 30,000. (The Padres ranked third with an average of 27,061.)

Of the 30 teams, 16 did not top 20,000. Three — the Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays — did not top 10,000.

The Dodgers sold 52,935 tickets to Tuesday’s game, and a good time was had by all, or at least all of those rooting for L.A. When Kelly entered the game, the Macarena played, all in good fun.

A cheerleader screamed at the fans to make noise, so they did. The video board demanded that fans make noise, so they did. The game was important and dramatic, so the fans stood and made noise at key moments without commands to do so.

There were the sounds of air horns on the stadium sound system. There were the sights of 50,000 blue towels waved as one. There was a beach ball bouncing around the stands — not the outfield pavilions, where the balls usually fly, but in the super-fancy seats behind home plate.

Trea Turner did not join the Dodgers until August. He understood immediately. The attendance for his first game in Dodger blue: 50,822.

Desperate for offense and top-notch pitching, the Dodgers win big on their lineup gambles to defeat the San Francisco Giants 7-2 in NLDS Game 4.

“Playing at Dodger Stadium is unbelievable, having 50,000 almost every single night and just the energy is electric,” he said the other day.

In his first road trip with the Dodgers, Turner visited St. Louis. He hit a fly ball to left field, he heard the fans cheer, and he assumed he must have been out.

“I almost ran off the field,” he said, “but it was the Dodgers fans cheering me because I hit a ground-rule double.”

This is how Turner learned the Dodgers’ fan base is not just large. It’s mobile.

“So I think that’s kind of weird, traveling to other stadiums and having a good portion be rooting for you as opposed to against you,” he said. “I think that’s the one thing that kind of sticks out.”

There will be some Dodgers fans in San Francisco on Thursday. Here’s hoping there will be a stadium full of them here next week.