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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Win One for the Gagne
2003-08-21 09:11
by Jon Weisman

Back to reality, with some notes on Wednesday's game ...

It just seemed funny when the Dodger Stadium scoreboard showed a kid wearing an Eric Gagne replica jersey - from the National League All-Star team. It turned out to be an omen.

Gagne came into a scoreless game (we've already been through this) Wednesday throwing thunderbolts. His first five pitches were strikes, and once he got that hump strike, the thought had to cross the mind of everyone in the ballpark that he could strike out the side on nine pitches.

I was thinking the same thing, but it also occured to me that Vladimir Guerrero might be as well, and that Gagne should waste a pitch.

In fact, the next batter Gagne faced, Orlando Cabrera, fell behind 0-2 and then got a pitch over and behind his head. That would have been a good one to throw to Vlad.

Instead, Gagne grooved one and Guerrero smacked it well over the short fence in left field for a tie-breaking home run, the second Gagne had allowed - not the first, as I incorrectly wrote hours earlier - in more than a year.

Gagne finished the ninth inning having thrown 15 pitches, but only one ball. When the Dodgers miraculously tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on three ground balls totaling about 175 feet, Gagne was in position to pitch the 10th thanks to his rest, his strength and the double-switch that Jim Tracy had made.

Gagne got the first two men out in the 10th before giving up a 2-2 double to Expos reserve Jamey Carroll. Endy Chavez then fell behind 1-2, but fouled off three pitches and worked out a walk.

By this time, Gagne was up to 37 pitches, and the Dodgers needed to get someone up in the bullpen. One more batter reaching base, and Gagne might be heading toward a 50-pitch night and possibly a blowout loss to match his May meltdown against Atlanta.

However, facing the same batter twice in a game for the first time since October 3, 2001, Gagne got Jose Vidro to ground out to first, setting the stage for Adrian Beltre's heroics.

By the way, as long as everyone's pointing out conicidences like how hot Beltre is in August, or how hot Beltre is since Robin Ventura was acquired, can one point out how hot Beltre is since Jack Clark was fired? Beltre has a .956 slugging percentage in August, but since Clark was fired on August 3, Beltre's OPS is even higher: 1.006.

With the victory, the Dodgers chance of making the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus, leapt overnight from 2.3 percent to 4.2 percent. Bandwagon jumpers, get your bandwagon jumping shoes on.

It helped that much of the wild-card competition got pummeled Tuesday. At 7:52 p.m., Colorado-Pittsburgh-Milwaukee-Cincinnati led Florida-St. Louis-Philadelphia-Arizona, 34-1. The Dodgers are now four games out, and following today's series finale with the Expos, will face the last-place if Mike Piazza-rejuvenated Mets while Florida travels to San Francisco, Chicago travels to Arizona and Philadelphia travels to St. Louis.

Wilson Alvarez may not win the Comeback Player of the Year award on his team - Kevin Brown has had a hold on that since May - but what a comeback Alvarez is having. In 53 1/3 innings, he now has an ERA of 2.36 and 54 strikeouts. His WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) is 0.99. He has enjoyed pitching at Dodger Stadium, where his ERA is 0.92, but even Alvarez's road ERA of 4.05 exceeds expectations.

Will Shawn Green be a candidate for Comeback honors in 2004? Perhaps not, but his difficult season took an uncertain turn for the worse when he left Wednesday's game in the fifth inning with a neck sprain. When we learned why Green left, our longtime family friend, Anita, said, "Neck sprain? What happened - is that noose tightening?"

No announcement of Green's departure was made until after Jeromy Burnitz, who moved over to right field when Green left, misplayed a sinking liner. It so resembled how Green might have played the ball that it was only when Burnitz turned around and revealed his jersey number that we realized Green was gone.

For every Comeback award, perhaps there should be a Go Away award. Last night's would have gone to the young lad in our aisle who tried - nay, insisted - that he get on the jumbo scoreboard. The boy took center stage with the sincerity and joy of Bobby Knight at a press conference, stuck his tongue out at the cameraman each inning that he was ignored, and after a few innings, had the happy look of a Vegas tourist who was running through his eighth bucket of quarters at the slots.

Perhaps rewarding the wrong behavior, but ending everyone's misery, the boy finally got his screen time. He ran back to his seat with the first sign of real glee that any of us had seen, and everyone could go back to enjoying the game.

An inning or so later, young Dr. Jekyll was back at it again, trying for his second seconds of fame.

As a parent, I fear any criticism I make will come back to kick me in the rear, but as a baseball fan, it's never to soon to teach or learn a little grace. Like driving, a chance to be on the fancam is a privilege, not a right.

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