Folks, this game had heartbreak written all over it, because for a while, this was like watching the pre-Manny Dodgers again. Derek Lowe was again effective, allowing only a wind-aided Mark DeRosa two-run homer over his six innings of work. But the offense, despite Ryan Dempster’s attempts to the contrary, had nothing going. Dempster walked four in the first three innings, yet the Dodgers simply could not capitalize, and nothing was more painful than getting the batter you want in the situation you want – Andre Ethier up with the bases loaded in the third inning – and coming away with nothing, when Ethier struck out on a ball in the dirt.
Worse, you were just getting the feeling that this wasn’t going to be the Dodgers’ night. Whereas DeRosa’s drive to right got enough wind to drift into the stands, Russell Martin’s fly to deep left with two men on in the third hung in the wind just enough to drop into Alfonso Soriano’s glove. When Casey Blake hit a screaming line drive, it was right at Derrek Lee. Through three innings, the only hit the Blue could muster was an infield single to shortstop that Manny beat out.
The Dodgers, sorry to say, looked completely uninterested.
Except that in the fifth inning, Ryan Dempster fell apart. Rafael Furcal, Manny, and Ethier all showed excellent patience and drew walks, sandwiched around a Martin flyout. With the bases loaded, up steps James Loney. That’s the same Loney who had been dreadful in September, putting up only a .209/.229/.297 and had begun losing starts while being platooned with Nomar Garciaparra. To be completely honest, he didn’t even look that great in the first few pitches of this at-bat. But then Dempster gets one in the zone, Loney takes a swing and… it can’t be… it could be… oh my god… GRAND SLAM.
With that one swing – and dig Loney’s enormous smile in the dugout afterwards – the entire game was changed, and it was really never in question after that. Manny and Martin each added homers to extend the lead, and Cory Wade, Jonathan Broxton, and best of all, Greg Maddux each pitched one scoreless inning to finish off the completely shellshocked Cubs. As the TBS announcers noted in the 9th inning, “have you ever seen Wrigley Field this quiet?”
And with that, everything’s changed. Jose Lima never need be spoken of again. Even better, this series is now guaranteed to go back to Los Angeles no worse than tied, and that’s the most you can ask for when you’re opening on the road. One more thing – the Cubs are 0-10 lifetime when losing the first game of a playoff series. Let’s make it 11!
One down, ten to go. Back tomorrow with a Game 2 preview!
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness