Remember the night, Dodgers fans. Remember the date: Wednesday, June 23.
Angel Stadium. Angels 2, Dodgers 1.
They play 162 games in major league baseball and some are not only memorable, but also significant. The Dodgers could get to the playoffs, even win the World Series. Or they could come apart. And if they do, there will be people pointing to this one.
This game — how it was played, how it was lost, what it says about the current mood of the Boys in Blue — could eat at the team for the next four months.
There were so many elements here.
The Dodgers, the big guys in this town almost from the moment they arrived, are now next in line in media coverage and fan frenzy behind the Lakers. The Dodgers still sell millions of tickets and attract a great fan base and probably always will. But there is no denying that the hottest ticket is at Staples Center.
And then, while the Lakers are taking over the spotlight, the upstarts down the 5 Freeway in the other league try to steal the Dodgers' territory for marketing purposes, a highly successful financial move. Also, whether directly or coincidentally, the name change to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has been a nose thumbed in the direction of Chavez Ravine.
Instead of ignoring it, the Dodgers gave the Angels additional credibility with an ad and a billboard campaign. "This is My Town," it says. There was a time not long ago when they didn't need to say that. Doth they protest too much?
Then you have the current run of interleague games, Dodgers versus Angels. The first three were at Dodger Stadium two weeks ago. The Angels won all three. The next three started Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. The Angels have won the first two, including Wednesday's night's stunner.
That's uncomfortable, to say the least, but easy enough for the Dodgers to rationalize as just one of those things and let it get lost in the business of getting into the National League playoffs. But when you throw in a stinker such as Wednesday night's, it can be a tick under your skin.
First, Manny Ramirez failed to hustle on a double by Matt Kemp, stopped up at third and never scored. Television showed Kemp pulling up at second and appearing to be upset that his night would reflect one run batted in rather than two. If you don't think baseball players covet their numbers, think again. Remember, the final score was 2-1.
Didn't we see this movie before with Manny and the Red Sox before he came to the Dodgers? There is no chance he will return to the Dodgers next season, but there are still four months of ill will that can be spread.
But this one went well beyond Manny being Manny.
In the ninth inning, with Brian Fuentes trying to protect his Angels' lead, the Dodgers had a promising rally going. Then Fuentes picked Kemp off second base — yes, second base. After Russell Martin walked, Jamie Carroll delivered what was to be the tying run with a Texas-League single to left field, and one of the more incredible endings in baseball history broke out.
Reed Johnson, pinch-running at second base and, with two out, having no reason to do anything but run all-out with the crack of the bat, headed home as Carroll's bloop dropped in front of Juan Rivera in left field. For some reason, between third and home, Johnson put it on cruise control. For some reason, Rivera saw Martin take a big swing around second base.
In a flash, Rivera fired to second, Howie Kendrick tagged Martin, the second-base umpire called him out and the plate umpire, seeing that the action at second had preceded Johnson crossing home and that a third out had been registered before the score, signaled the game over.
Martin, who may very well have beaten the tag, leaped to his feet and dropped an F-bomb on the second-base umpire. It was unmistakable on TV replays and not a very smart thing for a catcher who may have to coexist for many innings in the future in close quarters with that same umpire. Manager Joe Torre argued the call at second base, which was legitimate, but had to be seething more at that moment at others not wearing umpire uniforms.
Torre is the best hope for keeping the smoldering from turning to fire. He is a veteran, even-tempered, smart and long-suffering. He also is at the time of his life when he doesn't need to be watching horrid base running and sub-100% effort, especially against a team managed by Mike Scioscia, a former Dodgers star, who should have been in Torre's chair long before Torre got there.
By the way, this is written well before Thursday night's final interleague game between the Dodgers and the Angels. That result changes nothing. This is the Dodgers' town.
That is, if you believe the billboards.
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