|Dodgers teammates mob Juan Rivera in celebration following his two-out single that scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Dodgers are tied with St. Louis in the standings for the second wild card spot. (photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)|
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Miracle Finish Keeps Dodger Hopes Alive
The Dodgers replayed a script from May of this year and miraculously pulled off a finish for the ages to tie the Cardinals in the Wild Card standings. Tonight’s win assured the Dodgers the season series over St. Louis, which gives them home field advantage if they end the season tied with the Cardinals 16 games from now. It’s a scenario nobody wants, since it would mean they’d play a one game playoff to get in the one game playoff, but it’s an advantage nonetheless.
With the Dodgers down 3-2 and on the cusp of another crushing 1-run defeat, Andre Ethier looked like a dead duck. Cardinal closer Jason Motte had him on the ropes. Hurling 97 MPH fastballs, he had Ethier 0-2 with two outs and nobody on. Andre choked up and lined a single into right field. It was a clutch hit that ruined a lot of writers nights as they were just wrapping up their end of game pieces to be submitted for publication. I’m sure the stories were all similar with the theme remaining the same...the Dodger offense had failed again. The ball club was predicitable again as 20 Dodger hitters in a row had been retired before Ethier’s single.
So Mattingly inserted Dee Gordon to pinch run and he swiped a bag off of Yadier Molina, not an easy feat after being gunned out by the Cardinal catcher twice previously in this series. Gordon slid feet first under Descalso’s tag by the skin of his teeth and heroics were being set up.
Luis Cruz worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off a few pitches before seeing that fastball on the outside corner that he has so often laced into right center field this year. This time, Cruz was dialed in and launched a shot to the warning track that Cardinal centerfielder Jon Jay appeared to have a good jump on. As Jay dove and just came up short, Gordon scampered home and a 5.5 Richter scale reading was felt in Dodger Stadium from the delirious fans jumping for joy.
Cruz broke out the imaginary pistols in celebration and Motte pounded his glove in frustration for having blown the save. Juan Rivera stepped in the box as a pinch hitter. Shortly thereafter Rivera lined a shot up the middle that seemed to certainly be an uncontested single over second base, but Cardinal second baseman Daniel Descalso who had made two errors earlier in the contest at shortstop had been moved over to second, and he leaped a good ten feet in the air to somehow knock down the liner, but he couldn’t catch it. Pinch runner Elian Herrera who was running on contact hustled home from second and beat Descalso’s throw to the plate. Pandemonium ensued. It was celebration time in Chavez Ravine.
On the eve of Mexican Independence Day, Luis Cruz, a favorite son of Sonora, Mexico was the hero of the night. Something that hasn’t been too uncommon lately. It was an amazing ninth inning of heroic proportions.
What should not be overlooked was the performance of Matt Kemp. He’s obviously hurt and playing probably on fumes. In the top of the last frame, he crashed into the centerfield wall chasing a long fly ball hit by Yadier Molina. In obvious pain after the collision with the fence, Kemp chased down the ball and gunned a throw to third base to nip Molina, who created the “Cardinal” sin of making the first out of the inning at third base, (pun intended). Matt was spent and appeared dazed after the play, luckily, nothing else was hit his way the rest of the inning.
Kemp’s appreciative teammates greeted him with a hero’s welcome at the dugout steps when he came in after the third out. It is obvious that Matt is this team’s leader and his effort is inspiring to the guys. It’s got to be killing him that his shoulder and knee and whatever else is ailing him is not allowing him to perform up to his full capabilities. At the plate he is missing pitches low and away and those that he normally drives out of the park to right center field he is fouling back.
I hate to say it, but it may be in Matt’s and the team’s best interest for him to sit down and heal. It was a night when story broke that Clayton Kershaw may be out for the season also, so the dreary news of the early evening was lifted, at least for a few moments. The Dodgers are tied for the final post season spot and are riding a two game winning streak. Let's enjoy it for a few hours at least.