Sunday, September 26, 2004

Where Does Tracy Keep His Whiskey?

Jesus, what a weekend. It would be nice for USC to actually show up in the first half of a game one of these days. I see they're still tops in the most recent polls, but they are not the best team in the country right now. Cal and Arizona State must be salivating at the thought of knocking off the Trojans, as beatable a #1 team I've seen since Ohio State a couple of years ago. If it wasn't for Reggie Bush and LenDale White, they'd probably already have two defeats.

As for the Dodgers, those were three of the most exciting, pulse-pounding games I've ever had the privilege of listening to from the other side of the country. As mournful as I was after the first two games of the San Diego series, I didn't think the Dodgers had it in them to stem the Giant tidal wave. But Friday's game featured an absolutely masterful performance from Odalis Perez. It was the kind of game where a player basically says to his teammates, "Lean on me today, I'll take you home." Perez' eight exceptional innings was just what the battered pitching staff needed, and the key win over the surging Giants was just what the team as a whole needed. It assured the Dodgers of at least leaving the Bay Area in first place, and gave everybody a badly-needed booster shot of confidence.

Saturday's game had the makings of a classic. With the semi-healed Lima going, I wasn't holding out much hope for a win, but the Dodgers did their best to tease me, twice jumping out to 2-run leads. Then after falling behind 5-4, they came back to tie it again. I figured if the game was turning into a battle of bullpens, the Dodgers had to feel pretty good about their chances. So just as my spirits lifted, Yhency Brazoban decided to groove a 97-mph fastball to Pedro Feliz with the bases loaded, lofting Feliz into Giant lore, right next to the exalted Brian Johnson. (If you want become a little dumber than you are now, go read Plaschke's latest column, wherein he blames the Mota trade for yesterday's loss, conveniently ignoring Brazoban's immense contribution to the team since August. I lost about 8 or 9 IQ points reading it, myself.)

I wasn't expecting to win that game beforehand, but it was frustrating because it ended up being a game that the Dodger could very easily have won. So today's game was much more satisfying. Brett Tomko, who hadn't lost in nearly two months, was on the mound for the Giants facing the star-crossed Jeff Weaver. The Giants were probably the favorites in this game too, but the Dodgers struck early against Tomko (thank you, Alex Cora) and kept scratching away for runs even after the Giants had taken the lead. The No-Cals kept putting men on base in practically every inning, but the Dodgers held on and stunningly, took two of the three games. Sometimes I'm amazed that Jim Tracy doesn't conduct post-game interviews while swimming in a bottle of bourbon. The Dodgers this year could drive the pope to drink.

Tracy, however, ran Gagne out for another two-inning save tonight. I shouldn't be upset at that, considering how nervous I was when he went to Sanchez, Venafro and Carrara in the 7th inning. But it would've been a boost to young Yhency if he had been allowed to start the 8th inning the very night after Feliz' grand slam. If Brazoban gets through the inning, great. If he puts a man or two on, then you go to Gagne. I have a feeling that these long 30+ pitch outings are sapping some of Eric's strength, and there's still another tough week remaining in this season. We need him sharp for all seven games ahead.

After seeing their lead whittled down from 6 games to half a game in less than two weeks, the Dodgers reduced their magic number from 11 to 5 in just the past four days. They reasserted command of the NL West race and control their own destiny. No matter how badly the Padres roll over for the Giants (and rest assured, they will), the Dodgers can clinch a tie for the division by sweeping Colorado. Of course, I have about as much faith in a Dodger sweep of the Rockies as I do in a Padre sweep of the Giants, so I hope everyone's prepared for another gut-wrenching series next weekend. The Dodgers and Giants will slug it out in the final three games of the season with the division title and a playoff berth on the line.

Would you have it any other way?





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