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Back on the road to help the Dodgers bring it home

Because the lead in the NL West has narrowed, a trip to San Francisco seemed to be a good time to inspire the boys in blue in their quest for the playoffs.

September 12, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM SAN FRANCISCO — This trip should not have been necessary, but whatever it takes to get our boys home.

I made it clear to the Choking Dogs as I went around the clubhouse Friday night in my attempt to motivate them that I wasn't really worried about them gagging or how embarrassing it would be if they blew this now.

My concern, as I told each of them, is that I'm the one looking just awful.

A few weeks back I wrote "it was over," the Dodgers were a cinch to win the division title -- never for a second thinking it might all come down to how Ronnie Belliard plays.

That's why I was here with the Dogs and not in Columbus with the Trojans, three important baseball games and making sure when we leave here, we're still in first place.

Wouldn't you like to see the look on the Screaming Meanie's face when she reads, "we're all in this together."

I began my rounds with Manny Ramirez.

"We're only up two games."

For a moment Ramirez stopped shouting, "I am king," long enough to say, "Really? Two games. I had no idea."

OK, bad choice. Nothing bothers Ramirez unless someone suggests Jim Thome has more home runs

"The king plays every day," Ramirez says, just loud enough so Thome, who has been sidelined because of a sore foot, hears it.

"Two games," said Casey Blake. "No kidding."

The guy is from Iowa; the only thing they keep track of out there is how high the corn is come the Fourth of July.

"It's God's will," said Orlando Hudson, and so much for those who think winning is all about who wants it more.

Where's the sense of urgency? The killer instinct? Taking advantage of the Diamondbacks, the Padres and a Giants team that offers nothing much more than Buster Posey with a bat in hand? Who? Exactly.

Where's the realization the Rockies were 15 1/2 games behind at one point, but now only two?

"The way things are going you'll be playing golf soon," I told James Loney.

"I don't play golf," Loney said.

I talked to George Sherrill next before realizing what I was doing. "What would you know about choking?" I said. "You played for Baltimore and the season was over when it started."

Sherrill is pretty much a loner in the Dodgers' clubhouse, the only one really, and until now I had no idea why no one likes him.

"I ain't been here that long," mumbled Sherrill, while never raising his head from the puzzle he was working.

I told him "ain't" really ain't a proper word, maybe in Baltimore where no one cares what an athlete has to say, but not around here, and he just snapped. "I'm done," he said. "I'm done."

I thought he was done with the puzzle he was working on, but he just sat there slumped over, the pressure of the pennant race apparently too much. I have no idea what else it could have been.

Andre Ethier was sitting a few feet away, and I told him Sherrill was done, and he said, "I'm done too," while pushing himself away from a plate of gnawed chicken.

The way Sherrill conducts himself, he looks as if he has a future with the Angels.

I checked with Jonathan Broxton, killing two topics with one question, learning first that he's alive -- which is not always easy to detect, and then, "There's no sense pressing," he said. "We're in first place."

OK, then, so act like it, I ordered as we took the field against the Giants. Well, I was forced to sit in the press box.

First inning and Ethier, who might think now about eating chicken before every game, singled to right. Matt Kemp singled to left, and Loney doubled to right to drive in a pair of runs.

Sixth inning, Loney on base and Blake tried hitting a ball to Iowa, successful at least in hitting it out of the park to give us a 4-1 lead. On the scoreboard, San Diego was beating Colorado, 1-0.

Seventh inning, the guys taking to heart our little chat before the game and now exploding for five more runs.

Later, it's 10-3, and all it took was a little reminder that, "it really is over," at least for the Giants. A few more reminders might be necessary to dispatch Colorado.

This is just what Page 2 or 3 does -- a little more motivated than usual in this case -- anything to avoid spending any more time than necessary at Angel Stadium.

I DIDN'T think there were any Angels fans, hard to believe anyone could take an interest in such a boring group of baseball players -- let alone pay to see them play.

But a whole lot of angry people e-mailed, one Angels fan, Chris, going so far as to suggest, "Your article about the Angels was a joke."

You just can't slip anything past Angels fans.

TO MAKE it a sweep and end the Giants' season, the Dodgers will have to beat former teammate Brad Penny on Sunday.

The game will be interesting just to see how it goes every time Penny walks off the mound at the end of an inning, crossing paths with Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa.

"I'm not a big fan of Larry Bowa's," Penny said, while tugging on his Giants uniform before Friday's game.

Bowa fired back at Penny after Penny left the Dodgers to join the Red Sox. Bowa suggested Penny ought to worry about getting American League hitters out. He never did and was released from the Red Sox, but has been brilliant in two starts for the Giants.

"Night and day," Penny said. "People will see a 1 million percent difference in the way I pitch Sunday. I wasn't healthy [sore shoulder] one time last year with the Dodgers."

As for Bowa, it's not as if Penny can retaliate and hit him with a pitch.

"I might have to try and pick someone off third base," he joked.

That would suggest a runner might get to third base.

"A walk and two balks," Penny said, and while I know Penny is a huge man, I just wonder if he can outrun Bowa.


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