The Dodgers celebrate Adrian Gonzalez's walk-off, two-run double. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The dramatics were missing, that late-inning magic all but disappeared.
That sense you get when a team believes they can always come back, that they will somehow find a way, had vanished with the summer’s warmth.
Back on June 17, the Dodgers were 42-25 and had the majors all abuzz. Since then, they had gone 29-38 and the spotlight drifted elsewhere. Their confidence seemed to lag, their footing as a team suddenly made more difficult by an influx of new talent.
Which is why the Dodgers hope their 5-4 victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday proves a seminal moment to their season. As much as a struggling Adrian Gonzalez needed that ninth-inning, walk-off double, the Dodgers as a team needed it more.
It has been too long since they felt the emotional surge of a dramatic comeback.
“You tell me, when was our last walk-off?” said catcher A.J. Ellis. “I was trying to guess earlier with [Clayton] Kershaw on the bench, and we couldn’t figure it out.”
You have to go back almost a month to the last time the Dodgers had a walk-off victory – a single by Hanley Ramirez driving in the winning run against the Cubs on Aug. 5.
“The fact that we can’t remember tells you it’s been awhile,” said left-hander Chris Capuano. “It just feels so good.”
The Dodgers had won only twice in 53 games this season when they trailed after eight innings. They had only eight walk-offs all year – but six came before the All-Star break, and two of those with a bases-loaded walk.
“To come here and salvage the series after losing the first two games [to Arizona], with a dramatic win like today, is something that sometimes can get a team going,” said second baseman Mark Ellis.
The Dodgers are hoping for a much-needed carryover effect. If they have any hope of chasing down the Giants in the National League West, they are going to need a remarkable winning streak. The kind a confident team, a team that feels good about itself, puts together.
“I believe in such a thing as momentum in this game,” Capuano said. “But the most important thing is we just split the series. That was a huge win today. We can go home tonight and have dinner and relax on a good note. It’s just a lot more fun.”
Some baseball types like to say momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher, which for the Dodgers on Monday is Joe Blanton, who is 1-3 with a 6.67 earned-run average since joining the Dodgers. He’ll be opposed by Padres rookie left-hander Andrew Werner, making just his third career start (1-1, 3.00).
But the Dodgers were very much a team in need of an emotional, theatrical victory. They have been a team in search of a turning point to their season for months and eager to embrace its first potential sighting.
“This is a win we needed, in the fashion we needed,” A.J. Ellis said. “We’ve had a lot of chances at home to win a game dramatically, and to win in that style and have Adrian deliver the hit, it just hopefully infuses energy and confidence into the team.”