One outfielder held onto the ball, the other could not. Eithier kept the Dodgers close with his diving catch with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning, while Cameron could not hold onto the ball or the tie off Martin's drive to deep center field.
All night the Dodgers were hitting the ball hard, or at least semi-hard, and the hits never seemed to fall in, especially when runners were on. Maybe these balls the Padres kept catching weren't really hit that hard, and I was suffering the delusions of a frustrated, bitter, just-swept-by-the-Giants Dodger fan. Whatever the case, the hits finally started to fall in the ninth inning. I was sure the ball Marlon hit would carry to Cameron and be caught, but no, it fell in. When Nomar hit his ball, I was sure some fielder would glide back and over and snare it for the second out, but that fell in too. And then Cameron couldn't hold on to Martin's drive, and the Dodgers had the lead.
One closer survived the pressure of the ninth, while the other could not. Saito was once again amazing, except for those two pitches ( home run, hit batter ) when he wasn't. He reminds me a lot of Gagne. Their stuff isn't the same, of course, but the variety is similar, the way they keep batters off-balance with a variety of pitches that unexpectedly dip or seem to explode through a hidden corner of the strike zone. Saito, like Gagne before him, seems to mesmerize umpires into calling pitches for strikes that look at awful lot like balls. And they both project purity of emotion; Saito is joy, Gagne is intensity.
Hoffman was not amazing: he allowed three hard drives into the outfield. I felt all along that he was the most vulnerable of the Padre relievers, much more so than Linebrink or Meredith. But the real goat of the game was Adrian Gonzalez. To me he was the author of the play of the game when he fielded Furcal's bunt and chose to first look to second. This let the tying runs on, when all he needed to worry about was getting outs. If Marlon had been the tying run, then it might be excusable to worry about getting him out, even though it’s unlikely you’ll throw a man out at second on a drag bunt, but in the situation he faced there was no excuse. Adrian Gonzalez's decision was as bad as a batter trying to stretch for a double in the ninth down by two and getting thrown out. Everyone on the field should be aware of the game situation.
Tonight was an exorcism of all the demons of the Giant sweep. It may seem silly to say one game can do that, but that's the attitude I want to take. The morning before this game I woke up at 5am and couldn't fall back asleep because I kept thinking about how awful the last loss to the Giants was, about how many chances the Dodgers had blown both at the plate and in the field. This game shows that it won't always be that way. The Dodgers can get the big hit, even if they take 8 innings to get there. They can make the big catch. And they can lunge in for the kill when the opponent slips up.
There is nothing like a comeback Dodger win.