There are giveaway-inspired sellouts at Dodger Stadium and there are baseball-inspired sellouts at Dodger Stadium. Friday night was clearly the latter, and if you are a true devotee, you know the feeling.
It's called "playoff atmosphere," and what a beautiful phrase that it. Not as lovely as "World Series," quite obviously, but before you get to the Fall Classic you have to go through the National League. After disposing of the struggling Nationals and Blue Jays on their road trip which concluded Wednesday -- with three-game sweeps in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, respectively -- the Dodgers came home to face a much-stiffer form of competition in the Cincinnati Reds.
Cincinnati won the series opener Thursday, 5-2, with most observers shrugging off L.A.'s "flat" effort as travel-related, since they'd flown all night after their win a continent away. Rested and ready with their ace going last night, the Dodgers managed the same output in the scoring department, with just seven hits (they had nine Thursday), but it was good enough for a 2-1 win in front of 51,841 at Chavez Ravine.
While there may have been 4159 empty seats in the ballpark, they were difficult to find. Every section of the top deck and bleachers, and the upper reaches of both the first and third base sides of the massive reserve section were packed with Dodger Blue. And the every-Friday-night club-presented fireworks do not count as a fan freebie. These fans were here for well-played, taut, edge-of-your-seat baseball, and that's what they got.
If you're a reader of this blog you already know the details. But through the photography of David Blumenkrantz -- and as an excuse to thank him for his contributions to this publication -- let's review the highlights. Blumenkrantz is an Associate Professor of Photography at California State University, Northridge and covers the Dodgers for the Arroyo Seco Journal. He specializes in and is available for editorial work, portraiture and nonprofit organization assignments.
Clayton Kershaw was masterful once again, going eight strong innings, allowed a single tally, didn't walk a man while striking out eight, while lowering his earned run average to 1.96. He worked around four doubles -- stranding a leadoff two-bagger to Chris Heisey in the fourth -- allowing only Brandon Phillips' double to hurt him when Jay Bruce followed with single to center.
Bruce made two spectacular throws in the all-important fourth inning, looking every bit like former-Dodger farm hand Roberto Clemente in right field. With Hanley Ramirez in scoring position after having singled and stolen second, Juan Uribe hit a line drive to Bruce, who just missed pegging Ramirez with a glorious direct-to-glove throw to third baseman Todd Frazier.
A moment later Juan Uribe's fly ball gave the right fielder a second chance to nail Hanley, and Bruce didn't miss it. The throw was up the line about 10 feet, forcing Cincy catcher Corky Miller to come out to grab it. With a slide that far from home impossible and the catcher blocking his path, Ramirez tried to side-step his way to the run, but missed home plate in the process. Not seeing that umpire Alfonso Marquez had signaled safe, Ramirez retraced his steps, only to be tagged out by Miller in a close play.
Hanley touched home plate unmolested in the sixth, banging a two-run line drive homer into the left field seats to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The Reds came right back in the seventh for a quick run, but could muster nothing further, with Kershaw pitching a scoreless eighth inning and Kenley Jansen closing it out with a perfect ninth.
The series continues with Bronson Arroyo vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu tonight at 6:10 p.m., and Tony Cingrani vs. Chris Capuano or Stephen Fife Sunday at 1:10 p.m. The Dodgers are off Monday before facing the New York Yankees in an interleague matchup Tuesday and Wednesday.
While few savvy baseball fans expect the Yanks to make it to the postseason, look for the same nail-biting playoff atmosphere to be in evidence...if you can find a ticket.
Looks like a Brian Wilson signing is a possibility. The Dodgers scouted his Thursday Los Angeles-area throwing session, and ESPNLA.com's Mark Saxon quotes Ned Colletti's thoughts about the former Giants' reliever joining the bullpen as "intriguing."
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And for great Hall of Fame-related reading, check out Jim Caple's piece about the Cooperstown, New York, at ESPN.com