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As any Dodger fan will tell you, the final weekend of a pennant race in Los Angeles evokes thrills and chills -- thrills for the possibility of the Boys in Blue getting a playoff slot, and chills because inevitably we have to go through the hated San Francisco Giants to get there. When only one of the two rivals have a shot at the playoffs, the other always relishes the opportunity to send them home for an early vacation. But when they're fighting each other for that spot, the tension can be unbearable.
This weekend, the Dodgers needed only to win one game against the Giants to clinch the division, and they lost the first one on Friday. I was prepared to write a celebratory post on Friday night -- stayed up late to do it -- but unfortunately, the Giants hung tough. Yesterday's game looked like it would bring the same news, but the Dodgers showed their mettle unlike anything we've seen since Game 1 of the 1988 World Series:
Down by three runs entering the ninth inning, the Dodgers had already scored three times and there was still only one out. With the Giant defense playing in, all that was needed was a fly ball or a deep grounder to get the winning run home.
"I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere," said the 39-year-old Finley, a 16-year veteran. "I knew I would get it done."
Did he ever. Finley got his fly ball on the second pitch from Franklin, a fastball that cleared the wall in right field at the 375-foot sign, a grand slam to give the Dodgers a 7-3 victory, a franchise-record 53 comeback victories and, most important, the championship of the National League West Division for the first time in nine years.
Unfortunately, being so far away from LA, I don't get the TV coverage of the team that I used to get when I lived there. I haven't been to Dodger Stadium, which is truly one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country, since 1997. But I think I'm correct when I tell you that the 2004 Dodgers have more heart and more desire than any team since that last championship. Coming back from three runs down in the bottom of the ninth to win the division is legendary, and Steve Finley may wind up being this season's Kirk Gibson.
Congratulations to the Dodgers. Now I'll get to watch a few games on TV. Let's go all the way!
Addendum: Not to sell the Angels short, either, because they won their division yesterday, too -- the first time both teams have qualified for the playoffs in the same year, and they did it on the same day. I like the Minnesota Twins, but I've spent my share of time at the Big A/Edison Field, too. A Freeway Series between the Dodgers and Angels would be a blast.Sphere It View blog reactions
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