The Cardinals took three shots to the gut Thursday.
The first was literal, when Matt Holliday misplayed James Loney's two-out line drive against reliever Ryan Franklin, the ball bouncing off the left fielder's mid-section and allowing the tying run to reach second base.
The second shot was when Ronnie Belliard singled in the tying run. Cards starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who had tossed an eight-inning, three-hit gem, was standing in the dugout and he looked somewhat incredulous.
The third shot was when Mark Loretta knocked in the winning run. Holliday jogged toward his dugout, looking--as Vin Scully had described a few moments prior--"like the loneliest guy in Los Angeles."
And so it was that three players--none of whom were with these teams last year--determined the outcome of Game 2.
Free agency has largely been good for baseball, though it has created a mercenary culture (e.g., the Yankees). And then there are the mid- to late-season trades, when ball clubs essentially rent players who might help them get to the post-season.
That was the case with Holliday, who was sent packing--along with his big contract--from Oakland to the Cards on July 25. The slugger will be a free agent at season's end, but if the Cards don't survive his error and get past this first round, St. Louis may no longer be a hospitable place for him.
Belliard, too, was a late-season pickup. The journeyman infielder came from the Nationals on Aug. 30, just in time to be eligible for the post-season roster. Belliard, who has always had a potent bat, quickly supplanted Dodgers 2nd baseman Orlando Hudson. And here's one of the beautiful things about baseball's revolving door: During the 2006 season, Belliard was traded from the Cleveland Indians to...the St. Louis Cardinals! The Cards won the World Series that year. Maybe Belliard will be the Dodgers' lucky charm this year.
Loretta has actually been with the Dodgers all season. He was signed in the off-season, making the Dodgers the fifth team in his 14-year career. He's only been in the playoffs once, with the Padres in 2005, but they were swept in three games. After the Dodgers clinched the division, it was sweet to see Loretta--who was born in Santa Monica--include his father and young son in the locker room celebration. (Though I'm not sure how prudent it was for his kid to be around all that flowing beer and champagne.) And after Thursday night's dramatic win, Loretta had his son with him at the press conference. Imagine the memories that kid is collecting.
I'm predicting the Cards won't survive those three shots from Thursday night. The Dodgers, who are flying high after beating the Cards' two aces, will put them out of their misery this weekend.
--If you want to see and hear Vin Scully's call of Game 2's ninth inning (starting with Loney's at-bat), do so here: http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=7028745. It's classic Scully (though he was erroneously convinced that Holliday took that line drive in his groin). Makes you wonder why the networks don't hire Vin for the post-season, as they once did. Maybe he's become too accustomed to being a solo act and doesn't want some knucklehead former player or manager being forced on him as a booth partner.
--President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize makes that TBS promo he did with George Lopez for the comedian's upcoming talk show look even more unbecoming. I'm no killjoy but, c'mon, the president's handlers have done him no favors here. You've gotta draw the line somewhere. In TV parlance, they've jumped the shark. Lopez campaigned for Obama, but the comedian couldn't have gotten him enough votes to call in that chit, right?
Read what the other cities are saying about their teams: