The split feels more like a series victory because the Dodgers lost the first two games and rallied for the last two. It feels like a victory because of the grim possible future they were facing before Saturday night's game. A sweep would have been near devastating for the Dodgers chances this year, even with Manny the rest of the way. Though my first year as a Dodger fan in 1983 conditioned me to think 5 games back isn't that much, it really is, even with two full months to go.
That game last night was more dramatic at the end than it needed to be. Where was Broxton? We know now --- just a tired arm, nothing to be worried about. ( I hope. ) But last night it was a mystery, and fed into the late game worries. Is Broxton okay? Can the other relievers get the job done? I was terrified when Park came in with the tying run at the plate. I was thinking about the home run he gave up Friday, and all the home runs he gave up when he was with the Rangers, back when they called him "out of the Park", and I was thinking isn't he really, honestly, the same home run prone pitcher he was last year and the year before and the year before? And facing Chris Young, who hit 30 home runs last year? But in this series Chris Young has hit more like his name-mate in San Diego and less like the promising young hitter everyone thought he was and he merely grounded out to third and the cloud lifted and it was safe to be a Dodger fan again.
By rights the game last night should have been over when Manny hit his home run in the first inning. It was the emotional peak of the game, when despair was unwound and Manny truly welcomed to the Blue. Of course they will play all nine innings even after a dramatic fear-destroying curtain-call home run in the first inning. The Dodgers needed good Kuroda to show up, and he did, keeping the ball down in the strike zone and avoiding walks. That's good advice for any pitcher, isn't it? Except softball pitchers, perhaps. They seem to thrive on throwing the riseball.
Not only does Manny hit more home runs than any Dodger but he hits them farther than any Dodger. I think that's my favorite part of watching him hit. He's ferocious. The Dodgers haven't approached having a hitter this good since Sheffield left. But Sheff was never loved the way Manny is already loved. It's almost like having Piazza back.
For today's game the Dodgers didn't really need Manny to win, so rotten was Doug Davis' pitching. So much for that great ERA against the Dodgers. But Manny made the game more fun, going 4-5 and eliciting cheers even when he struck out in his one batting blemish. Vinny made the game more fun as well, as he does every game. But today, especially, he was in fine voice. There are some days when he really turns his inner scamp loose. That accent he pulled when he was talking about the Trolley Dodgers in Brooklyn was a delight.
Time to take the Manny show on the road. This is a new team, a better team. Even if Torre insists on sitting Ethier it's a better team. That 1-8 record in St. Louis doesn't mean anything. Let's see what they've got.