FROM PITTSBURGH — Time for Scully to go to work.
That was the goal in making this trip, maybe my finest work to date, making sure Scully is behind the microphone when the boys clinch, pleasantly surprised to find the Dodgers so willing to tank.
From the outset it appeared an almost impossible task, no avoiding Eric Collins and a champagne-soaked Steve Lyons, the magic number so low and the Dodgers just needing to show up against the Pirates.
For a day there I even thought about getting back home in time to take the granddaughter to Disneyland, helpless here in keeping the Dodgers from clinching before Scully could give us the call, forgetting for a moment that I was still covering the Choking Dogs.
So my hat's off to the guys, Manny taking two days off, Torre going with a spring training lineup with a chance to clinch and everyone else in blue who played dead to send the Dodgers on to San Diego.
You lose three out of four to the Pirates, a week or so before everyone is going to make a case why they can beat the Phillies or Cardinals three or four times in a series, and it speaks to the Dodgers' commitment here to take a dive.
Even with the incentive of a champagne party, a magic number of one, and ordinarily no holding Chin-lung Hu back with a bat in his hand, the Dodgers opted to roll over.
And they were so imaginative in how they did. They couldn't beat five shaky relief pitchers in Game 1, couldn't hold a three-run lead in the ninth in Game 3, and then nodded off in Game 4.
The shocking collapse in Game 3 was just that, but it wasn't like the final game of the season and costing the Dodgers a playoff berth.
So I'm sure they were just acting as if it did here for the Pirates' benefit, a nice way for the bungling Buccos to end their home season in PNC Park. As you know, the Dodgers can be so nice to the opposition at times.
Now you would think few other teams in baseball would have more incentive than the Dodgers right now to go all out. Just imagine what it takes to appear so flat.
I suppose they might wait now until Friday when they return home to clinch, but that would require the Rockies winning every game until then, and the Micro Manager is good, but as you remember, not that good.
So the Rockies might clinch it for the Dodgers.
As if planted here, a former Dodger did everything he could for Dodgers fans, who will now get the good news from Scully.
Andy LaRoche hit two home runs, two doubles and a single, the obvious wise-acre question, why did the Dodgers ever trade the guy for Manny?
"That's a good question," Ned Colletti says before catching himself. "It's only one day."
No, it isn't easy losing to such an inept team as the Pirates, losers of 23 of 26 before this series began, everyone wondering if a race is fixed when a 99-1 longshot laps the field. What about three times in a span of four races?
That's why it was such a nice touch, the Dodgers roaring back to score a run in the ninth inning in a 11-0 game, thereby making it appear as if there was no quit in our heroes.
"Their record says you should beat them," Torre says, "but these kind of teams are dangerous."
The Dodgers don't appear to handle danger well, playing seven games against the dangerous likes of Washington and Pittsburgh, and winning three.
They appear so rattled, the team with the best record in the National League can't catch the ball, when they do they throw it away, and once on base get picked off. It goes like that the whole weekend.
Thank heavens it will be so much easier when they take on the likes of Philadelphia and St. Louis.
SOMEONE ASKED what's the biggest difference between Scully and Collins. I get all kinds of e-mail.
The obvious answer, silence.
For the most part Scully allows the moment to be orchestrated by the cheering fans, waiting, and sometimes waiting before applying such the right words or sentiment.
If the other guy remained silent, we'd hear from Lyons.
THE GAME over, Colletti walks by and says, "You could have gone to Disneyland and still seen us clinch."
Glad to see he still thinks the Dodgers might clinch.
TORRE SAID, "I'm very disappointed; part of my job is motivation, but at this point I don't really have to tell them anything."
Hate to find out later they were just waiting to be told they need to win one more game.
TALK ABOUT tough love. The other night Pirates first baseman Steve Pearce, hitting .204, walked to home plate, the folks here in the stadium playing, "You're as cold as ice."
PNC PARK OPENED in 2001, and while it seems like the place at this time of year to have a champagne party in the visitors' clubhouse, it's never happened.
The Mets needed one win in 2006 but were swept. The Dodgers had beer and champagne on ice, left the beer behind, but took 150 bottles of champagne to San Diego.
When weight limitations were mentioned, I said a player might have to be left behind and I'd be willing to pick which one.
They declined, leaving me with the impression they still think they might need Jeff Weaver.
THE DODGERS left for San Diego right after the game, but The Times' twosome here to cover this series was sentenced to another night in Pittsburgh.
Torre took compassion, suggested a local restaurant, said ask for "Justin" and said dinner was on him. We weren't going to accept, but on the off chance that he tries to write it off on his Dodgers' expense account, the thought of it needing Frank McCourt's approval was just too delicious to pass up. We asked for Justin, but Justin had never heard of this Torre guy we were talking about.
GREAT NEWS. I just got off the phone with Scully's wife. He's already in San Diego, "in fine form," she said, "and ready to roar."