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Green's Light Goes Red
2003-04-01 21:34
by Jon Weisman

As Tuesday's game went into the eighth inning with Curt Schilling working on his two-hit shutout and a 4-0 lead, I envisioned writing about Odalis Perez.

Yes, you could tell this game was going to be a different story from Monday's by the time Perez walked the leadoff batter, the ineffectual Tony Womack. Perez went on to allow four runs in the first three innings.

But Perez didn't cave. Part of that was thanks to Arizona's atrocious baserunning decisions, but mostly, he found the plate, spared the Dodgers a demoralizing trip through the nether regions of their bullpen - and lo and behold, kept them in the game.

The comeback off Schilling in the eighth was meaningful. The Dodgers may not be a nine-inning team every day of the year - what team is - but they showed everything you would want to see in that rally. Even though they were smothered for seven innings, the Dodgers pounced on their opening - Schilling tiring - and worked their way back in.

That they lost the game is, I'm gonna say, almost a footnote. They almost stole a win - just like that 2002 game I mentioned Monday, when they rallied to take the lead over Randy Johnson only to lose in extra innings. But the way they took the lead will resonate longer than the way they lost.

The biggest twist of the game was not the almost indomitable Schilling losing that lead, however. It was finding that Shawn Green has become a 33 1/3 runner in a 45 RPM world.

On first base with one out, Green should have scored the go-ahead run on Fred McGriff's surprising double down the right-field line (off a left-handed pitcher, no less). But Green looked gassed by the time he rounded second. I had as much trouble believing it as third-base coach Glenn Hoffman must have as he waved the almost unambulatory Green in.

Meanwhile, straining around the turn at third, Green hesitated, looking like he couldn't believe he was being sent.

In retrospect, you'd like to see Brian Jordan coming up with runners on second and third, one out, and the Arizona bullpen reeling. But I won't blame Hoffman. I really wouldn't be surprised if that was the slowest Shawn Green has ever run in a major-league baseball game.

Speed has never been the biggest part of Shawn Green's game, of course, but it was an asset. It's not insignificant. Speed in getting to the ball helps him play right field. He has 128 career stolen bases. Outside of Dave Roberts, Green was arguably supposed to be the best baserunner in the starting lineup.

Last year, when Green's stolen base total dipped to eight after four consecutive years of 20 or more, it might have been attributable to a fluke or circumstance. Maybe the same goes for him tying a National League record for left-handed batters by grounding into 26 double plays. Maybe even looking at what happened tonight, maybe Green just needs to amp up the pregame windsprints.

But maybe not. No one else is going to write about this amid all the other activity of Tuesday's game, but maybe our five-tool player has lost a tool. Not to diminish the value of the victory that got away, but that's the biggest bummer of the night.

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