Friday, June 08, 2007

The Fans were Wild...

It is only a game. They keep telling us that! Tell that to the delirious Padres fans and the dejected Dodgers fans after last nights game. Talk about a game with a turning point, and good luck (or bad depending on your point of view!).

We were in our season ticket seats - in Section 310, Row 4. For the first time this year, the two fellows who had the seats next to us last year came to a game that we attended. They are fun and knowledgeable and we enjoy analyzing the players and the game with them.

The Padres won the last game of the series, 6-5, to sweep the three game set and take sole possession of first place in the NL West. How they did it is the story, and a tremendous example of never giving up hope, and how the ball bounces in baseball. 40,631 were in attendance, but many more will say they saw this game. Of those, perhaps 5,000 were Dodgers fans in regalia, and they made their presence seen and heard.

The game started out as a pitchers battle - Jake Peavy, the Padres ace, against the Dodgers Hong-Chih Kuo, a left-hander in his second start with good stuff. The umpire was Jeff Fairchild, a AAA replacement, and he was inconsistent and squeezed both pitchers in the strike zone.

The Dodgers got a run in the top of the 3rd, and the Padres scored a run in the bottom of the fourth.

In the 7th inning, the Dodgers had some good luck and then timely hitting. With one out, Andre Ethier singled past a diving Marcus Giles. Brady Clark lined out to left field, and Jose Cruz's throw to first would have doubled up Ethier, except it hit Ethier's foot about 10 feet from the bag. So it was 2 out and a runner on first. Pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit walked on a 3-2 count, bringing up Rafael Furcal. He smacked a double to the base of the Petco Porch in right field, scoring both runners. Tony Abreu doubled to left to make it 4-1.

Padres fans were dejected, Dodgers fans were elated. The tension in the stands rose as the Dodgers fans hooted and chants of "Beat L.A." reverbrated in response. Security personnel appeared in our section, and removed several fans for infractions.

To make matters worse, Cla Meredith gave up a long home run to center field to Luis Gonzalez in the top of the 8th inning. More Dodger fans elation, more Padres fan dejection. Many fans left in the 8th inning. More Dodgers fans were taken down by security. The Padres went meekly in the 8th inning, and Justin Hampson struggled in the top of the 9th, but didn't give up a run. It was 5 to 1 Dodgers entering the bottom of the 9th inning.

The group of Padres fans in back of us started yelling "Let's Go Padres" and a bunch of guys put on their rally hats in the seats below us. Jonathan Broxton, the Dodgers new closer with the 98 mph fastball and nice curveball, came in to pitch. All of a sudden, the momentum changed. In order, the Padres:

1. Geoff Blum topped a ball that second baseman Jeff Kent came up with but his throw drew Garciaparra off first base. A hit, but could have been an out.

2. Terrmel Sledge pulled a two hopper right at Nomar Garciaparra at first base, who booted it for an error. Should have been an out.

3. Marcus Giles lined a ball to center field that Juan Pierre charged and gloved as he hit the ground, but it got away from him for a single. Bases loaded, nobody out. Could have been an out. My comment to my wife now was "if McAnulty can get on, Adrian can win this with a grand slam."

4. Paul McAnulty, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, topped a ball of the plate - a big hop that Garciaparra gloved but could not beat McAnulty to the bag. A hit, a run scored, the bases are still loaded, nobody out. It could have been an out if Garciaparra had tossed to the pitcher.

5. Adrian Gonzalez smashed a drive to right-center that hopped over the fence, driving in two runs, making it 5-4, with runners on second and third, nobody out. The Padres fans are delirious, lots of high fives, and high hopes for winning this game.

6. Josh Bard was intentionally walked to load the bases, nobody out.

7. With the infield and outfield in, Mike Cameron lined a single right at Juan Pierre in center, scoring the tying run, leaving the bases loaded, nobody out. We have 3 shots at winning this with a hit, walk, balk, flyout, etc. The stands are swaying even though half the people left last inning.

8. Kevin Kouzmanoff struck out on 3 pitches. One out.

9. Russell Branyan worked the count to 3-2, and took a close pitch for a walk-off walk. The winning run scored, the Padres fans cheered loudly, the Dodgers fans looked on in disbelief.

PADRES WIN, 6-5 scoring 5 runs in the 9th inning. Lucky. Good. Cool. Broxton actually pitched pretty well - he could have had 4 outs in the first 4 batters with a little more luck or defensive skill. The Padres drove in runs in scoring position for a change.

There were no smiles on Dodgers fans faces, and there were taunts and jeers by some Padres fans directed at Dodgers fans, as we left the stadium and walked to the trolley station. The Padres fans were still enjoying the afterglow. On the trolley, we sat next to a fellow with a Dodgers cap on - he was glum, and there was only one jeer in the 30 minute ride to the parking lot.

Taking the trolley to the games - $4 round trip. Two upper deck tickets - $32, Sweeping the Dodgers and leading the NL West - Priceless!

But the season is not over - there are 103 more games. The hope for a third straight NL West title, and to go further in the playoffs, still springs eternal.

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