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T.J. SIMERS

Pirates ram into Dodgers' title-clinching party ship

Loss at Pittsburgh puts on hold a celebration for winning the National League West championship.

September 28, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Here I am sitting in the Los Angeles clubhouse in Pittsburgh watching Colorado, the Dodgers pulling for the Cardinals, who they will be trying to beat later, and right now the Micro Manager the one who will determine whether the Dodgers clinch the division title Sunday.

I might've missed Disneyland to be here, but I can't imagine a wilder ride.

The magic number is one when Sunday begins even though it's two because someone remembered they have the tiebreaking edge on Colorado.

Not a lot of mathematicians in this group.

It's the ninth inning, the Dodgers three outs from clinching the division title, broadcaster Eric Collins ready to really give it to L.A., and the Dodgers three runs ahead of the Pirates, who usually need a good week to score as many runs.

Inside the Dodgers' clubhouse the furniture is being moved, plastic hung across the lockers to save what's inside from the champagne party about to begin.

TV analyst Steve Lyons is there too, dropping his suit pants to put on shorts in anticipation of flying champagne.

Outside on the field, Jonathan Broxton is on the mound, as if this is fair against a team as inept as the Pirates.

Former Dodger Delwyn Young singles to right, maybe the first indication a miracle is in the making.

Another Pirates singles, but then Rafael Furcal gets the chance to turn a double play. "I do and we win," he says later, but he doesn't. A bad hop and bobble get only one out.

There's another single, a bad throw, and an intentional walk of someone you've never heard of to get to Lastings Milledge, who is 0 for 21 against the Dodgers.

Make it 1 for 22, Milledge singling to right, the ball getting past Andre Ethier, the Pirates, the freaking Pirates, now the ones who are jumping on top of each other as if they just won a title or saved L.A. from hearing Collins' clinching call.

Inside the Dodgers' clubhouse they are frantically tearing down the plastic before the players trudge in, the champagne and beer on ice but out of sight.

The TV is on, the Cardinals are beating the Rockies, 3-2, and if it stays this way, the Dodgers will party.

Right now the clubhouse has that high school bus ride home feel to it after a Friday night football loss, everything hush-hush.

The media file into Joe Torre's office. He looks as if he just learned the Sparks have been eliminated.

He's going to stay here to watch the Rockies game, and I know how much that would make Jim Tracy's day.

The players have the choice to walk to the hotel or wait for the bus after the Rockies game. Most stay; they aren't used to walking anywhere.

Torre is talking to the media when the Rockies tie the score and go ahead. If he were superstitious, he might never talk to the media again.

Manny Ramirez gets dressed, throws his purse over his shoulder, and says he's leaving. "But only when you leave," he adds. He must think I've got a car to give him a lift.

Broxton is across the room all by himself, almost stuffed into his locker. After all, those were the inept Pirates who clubbed him around.

GM Ned Colletti lets out a loud noise from Torre's office. Someone on St. Louis strikes out. You watch, he'll trade for him next year if the Cardinals pick up the rest of his salary.

Up on the TV they show the Yankees clinching their division title, but Torre misses it. When he finds out, he starts making calls to Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi. The story he can tell them.

Lyons is still in his shorts and is wearing an earpiece. I wonder whether Collins is on the other end. You know what they say about catchers -- they're tough.

On TV they've gone to commercial, George Lopez doing a bit to promote his new talk show in November. It's hilarious, but no one in the room laughs.

When they return to the game the announcer is talking about the tension the Rockies crowd must feel. He should be here.

Huston Street takes the mound in the ninth to protect a 4-3 Rockies lead. No one in the Dodgers' clubhouse is pulling for him. He makes the sign of the cross.

An ex-Dodger leads off. They are everywhere. Julio Lugo singles for the Cardinals. "Oh yeah," exclaims Clayton Kershaw.

The announcer says Street has 25 consecutive saves. No one sneaks a peek to see whether Broxton is listening.

There's a close play at first, the runner appearing safe, but the umpire calls him out. Lugo advances to second, but from the back room a bad word is shouted over and over again.

Matt Kemp sticks his head out to say, "Yeah, I said it."

They show a replay and most of the Dodgers are on their feet. Kemp lets out another bad word. Kershaw really lets the TV have it too. "That's really bad," he says, as nasty as he ever gets.

I wonder what the Chargers are doing, but it's probably not a good time to ask if I might change the channel for a minute.

The Rockies intentionally walk Albert Pujols, and then Lugo steals third. Good for him -- don't recall him getting there very often while playing for the Dodgers.

Runners on first and third, St. Louis down by one, one out and one of the Cardinals hits a soft fly ball. But Colorado's second baseman makes a spectacular catch, gets to his feet and doubles off Pujols. Game over.

"Oh my God," says Jason Repko.

"Oh my God," says Chad Billingsley, like so many fans when he pitches.

"Bus in 30 minutes," says a Dodgers official.

Let 'em walk if they can't beat the Pirates.

One more early game here today against these inept Pirates, who will probably draw a few thousand fans, and it should be over.

On a bright note, win or lose, it'll be the last time anyone will have to listen to Collins and Lyons.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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