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BILL DWYRE

Freeway Series: Dodgers and Angels giving L.A. a reason to believe

With both teams now in baseball's final four, that long-dreamed-about local matchup has become a tantalizing possibility. Just don't expect the players to talk about it out loud.

October 13, 2009|BILL DWYRE

Think of where we were, just days ago, a huge metropolitan area of baseball fans on edge, uncertain. We were waiting to exhale.

It was postseason time in a city that loves its baseball. But the Dodgers were playing like cadavers and the Angels were playing ghosts.

Fans with some level of longevity here remembered the good times and didn't take them for granted:

* In 1988, Kirk Gibson pumping his fist as he rounded the Dodger Stadium bases.

* In 2002, wingless Angels flying toward relief pitcher Troy Percival to celebrate near the mound, moments after Darin Erstad squeezed the last fly ball.

But along the way, there were so many years with so many heartbreaks that being smug was not an option.

Suddenly, in the last week of a regular season that the Dodgers had dominated, making the divisional clinch a certainty, the boys in blue became literally that, appearing about to succumb to a chokehold. Would the Colorado Rockies ever let them open the champagne?

Down the 5 Freeway, the Angels had taken care of the champagne-pouring in a timely manner, only to earn a division series against the Red Sox, who had spooked them every time since 1986 in postseason situations. Could they halt the hex, junk the jinx?

Were we worried?

Of course. That's what being a baseball fan is all about, that and hating the Yankees.

Then, faster than you can say one-two-three, Los Angeles became the center of the baseball universe. Fly away, Cardinals. Chew on that, Beantown.

Two division series sweeps. The broom is the new sports logo of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim make baseball's final four. How good is that?

The elephant in the room is called a Freeway Series, just four wins away now for the Dodgers and Angels, meaning their travel days would be in a carpool lane instead of an aisle seat.

But that topic, once fun to kick around at midseason -- when both teams were playing well and column-writing speculation served mostly to provoke geeks on bar stools in Boston and New York into firing off angry e-mails -- now feels verboten. Now, it's almost real. Think of it as the dugout in the seventh inning, and your pitcher has a no-hitter going.

Were L.A. versus L.A. to happen, it could be chalked up to divine intervention. Baseball is a summer game, and we are alone in still having lots of that left here. Established facts: Shortstops do not field as well in ski masks, and curveballs are harder to hit when you can see your breath.

The Dodgers take on the Phillies for the National League pennant now. That means it's laid-back Los Angeles against the City of Brotherly Love. That works in Philadelphia until somebody strikes out or boots a ground ball. Rumor has it some hard-core Philadelphia fans are training for this series by throwing rocks at crossing guards.

The Angels will play the Yankees to see who's best in the American League. Ah, Anaheim and New York, miles apart and worlds of difference. The population of Anaheim would fit into three high-rises on Park Avenue. In Anaheim, you eat at the Subways.

Mostly, for this megalopolis of baseball fans, the recent sweeps by the locals mean the possibility of as many as 14 more prime-time, big-deal, the whole-city-shuts-down home games involving the Dodgers and Angels.

In the 2-3-2 format, the Dodgers will open as hosts to the Phillies on Thursday and Friday and would play two more games back at Dodger Stadium, if the series goes the full length, Oct. 23 and 24.

The Angels will play at Yankee Stadium on Friday and Saturday, then play three games at the Big A, Oct. 19, 20 and 22.

The World Series format, also 2-3-2, could give us seven more. It starts and finishes in the American League park because the AL won the All-Star game in July.

The first two games will be Oct. 28 and 29, followed by three games in the NL city Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and 2, followed by the final two games, if necessary, in the AL city Nov. 4 and 5.

Suddenly, there is so much to look forward to, there are so many interesting angles.

If it ends up being Dodgers versus Yankees, you'll have one manager, Joe Torre, going against the team he rightfully should still be managing.

If it ends up being Dodgers versus Angels, you'll have one manager, Mike Scioscia, going against the team he rightfully should have been managing for the last 10 years.

If it's Dodgers versus Angels, former catcher Torre versus former catcher Scioscia, expect each team to excel in plate-blocking and sign-stealing.

One thing is certain. For the next two weeks, or more, we will be able to turn on our TV sets every night and watch grown men repeatedly spit and scratch themselves. This is postseason baseball, and that is apparently mandatory.

The extra twist is that, this year, God willing, it will be our guys, right to the end, spitting and scratching. It doesn't get any better than that.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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