Well, I had a happy birthday anyway, but the Dodgers couldn't pull this one out for me. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of one Mr. Hong Chih Kuo, who had his third consecutive awful start. After the game, when reporters mentioned this to Grady Little, Little's response was, "We can count."
The Dodgers knew this was an important game, given how crowded it is at the top of the NL West. And they showed a little fight, which was nice to see. But they just couldn't dig out of the hole that Kuo had so kindly dug for them.
It started off like a good pitching matchup, and the Dodgers went into the top of the fourth with a 2-1 lead. The Dodgers had already stolen four bases off of Chris Young, on their way to five stolen bases in the game. He was not sharp, but the Dodgers couldn't quite take full advantage of that fact. And so, in the top of the fourth, Kuo just completely fell apart. Here are the details of his demise: double, single (run scores), runner advances on Loney's throwing error, single, home run (three runs score), walk, sacrifice, infield single.
Then Seanez came in to replace Kuo, and immediately gave up a hit that scored a run, then a fielder's choice that scored another run. 7-2, Padres. Seanez got out of it, but the damage was done.
The Padres wouldn't score another run, thanks to three scoreless innings by Hendrickson and one each by Beimel and Tsao (back from the DL, and activated Friday). The Dodgers had a few chances over the next few innings, but couldn't push a run across. It's too bad, because when they finally did get something going, they only ended up one run shy of a full comeback.
It didn't start until the eighth inning, which was right after I had a conversation with my girlfriend about whether we should be getting home to check on the dog (the game took a long time). We stayed, and I'm glad, because it got pretty exciting. Martin led off the eighth with a double, then Kent singled. The Padres brought in their third pitcher of the night, Ring, and he got Gonzalez to ground out. Runners at second and third. Nomar reached on a little nibbler up the third base line, which scored Martin. Then Loney hit a single that scored Kent.
The Padres brought in another pitcher, Linebrink. He threw a wild pitch, which moved Nomar to third and Loney to second. Matt Kemp grounded out, scoring Nomar. 7-5, Padres. Betemit came in to hit for Beimel, then flied out to left. But the Dodgers showed something in that inning, and they had us believing in some ninth inning magic.
One thing about Nomar: it's awful to see him struggling the way he is. He had a few hits last night, sure, but they were all singles. There's no more power. But the great thing about being at a game is seeing the support he gets from the fans. They know he's struggling, but every time he comes to the plate, especially in crucial situations like last night, you can actually feel the entire stadium pulling for him. There are a few boos, of course, but mostly there is just support. It's like you can hear all their thoughts. This is it. This is when he snaps out of it and becomes the Nomar we know.
No one recognizes the guy who has been coming to the plate lately, and it's getting pretty sad. But there's still hope out there at Chavez Ravine, and I like to see it. You can call it the naivete of the fans, who should know better than to cheer so loudly for a guy who doesn't do anything, but I don't see it that way. They want him back. And they'll cheer as loudly as they can until they can make that happen.
In the ninth, Furcal led off with a double off Hoffman. Pierre came up and grounded out, moving Furcal to third. Then Martin grounded out to third, and scored Furcal. Two outs, but now it was a one-run game. Jeff Kent came to the plate and hit a line drive double to center. And then it was up to Gonzalez. And...he fouled out on the second pitch from Hoffman, and the inning was over.
Yeah, it was a huge letdown. But it was fun watching them try. And from the beginning of this game, there was a crazy atmosphere at the stadium. It was really great. I hate when announcers say "this is a playoff atmosphere," but there's no other way to describe what was going on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. As soon as I got there, I was reminded why I will never get bored going to baseball games.
Pierre Watch: 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 run scored, 3 stolen bases. Pierre was, frankly, pretty awesome in this game. It's like he understood the importance, and he was doing everything he could to get on base and make things happen. He stole two of his three bases in the first inning.
Player of the Game: Juan Pierre. Weird, right? Had to do it. Honorable mention to Nomar for getting the bat on the ball and going 3-4 with 1 RBI and a run scored.
Record: 45-35 (one game behind the Padres in the West)
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