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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Don't Drop the Boy
2004-09-24 23:00
by Jon Weisman

My 7 1/2-week-old son, who has never known the Dodgers not to be in first place in his lifetime, was quite agitated between 9 and 10 p.m. tonight. My wife thinks it was constipation, but you and I know the real reason.

So there he was in my arms, for about a solid hour, as the countdown to win a game by avoiding Barry Bonds went down. (As Vinny said in the line of the night, "You know how the Dodgers try to get the ball to Gagne? The Giants are trying to get the bat to Barry.")

I held the boy steady when Cesar Izturis made the diving stop to retire Deivi Cruz. And I held the boy steady when Eric Gagne, one out away from victory without Bonds, threw his 12 consecutive balls to the next three batters.

I told myself that I had to take care of the boy, no matter what.

And I whispered to the boy with the bases loaded, "Bring it home."

And he did.

A tremendous victory instead of a devastating loss. Yeah, Dodger fans will take that trade.

Odalis Perez threw one of the biggest lollipops I've seen all year to allow a second-inning home run to Bonds, then seemed to be on the precipice when Yorvit Torrealba followed with his own round-tripper.

But Perez, as he has done many times despite the criticism he seems to draw, got on one of his rolls, the kind of roll that has seen him pitch two one-hitters in his career. Only one more hit and one walk allowed through eight innings, while inducing a double play and two Bonds strikeouts - the second on a curveball that was as delicious as that earlier one was distasteful.

Has Perez earned some credibility in this town yet?

When Perez started getting handshakes in the dugout in the top of the ninth inning, I was disappointed. Having thrown only 92 pitches, there were still scenarios where he should have gone back on the mound. For one, if the Dodgers hit a home run or two before his turn at-bat came, Perez belonged back out there to go after a complete game and give the bullpen a night off. Or, if the first two Dodgers in the ninth made out, there wasn't too much reason to give up on Perez in exchange for a pinch-hitter. Then, if he allowed a baserunner, the Dodgers could turn to Gagne.

As it happens, a third scenario to keep Perez in the game materialized - runners on first and second (thanks in part to a pinch single by noteworthy callup Antonio Perez), none out, bunt situation. I think you let Perez bunt in that situation, and retain the flexibility of keeping him in the game. If, for some reason, Perez ended up on first, you could even pinch-run for him.

Another option, suggested in the Stretch Run Open Chat by Matthew Conroy, was to use Alex Cora, who was destined to enter the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the inning, for a bunt. That hadn't occured to me, but that was probably the second-best option.

Instead, manager Jim Tracy went with Jose Flores - which, it should be clear, was not a bad option, just not the best. Flores, who I expect has proven he can bunt despite not having done so in the majors, didn't get it down. And so, Perez was gone for no reason, and the Dodgers needed Gagne for a full inning instead of perhaps just an out, or maybe not at all.

Of course, some breathing room prior to that point would have been nice, and the Dodgers had the baserunners to get it, but five double plays and a caught stealing crimped that to hell. The Dodgers rolled a 1-12 for a lo (p) max and a 2-12 for a lo (ss) max (Strat-o-Matic players know what I mean), grounded into three other twin-killings and nearly flew into a sixth double play.

But thanks to home runs by the righteous Shawn Green and Jose Hernandez, Los Angeles got enough. And as was suggested in the pregame discussion, even if runs didn't come pouring across, the Dodgers did accomplish something by forcing the Giants to run through their bullpen tonight - it could pay dividends Saturday. Meanwhile, everyone in the Dodger pen but Gagne got at least their second day off of the week Friday - nice for valuable young Yhency Brazoban, who had thrown 41 pitches in the previous two days. He'll be ready for Saturday.

Gagne has thrown 50 pitches in the past two nights, so you'd like to see him get a day off, but you know he'll be available for an inning should the Dodgers get a lead behind Jose Lima. The Dodgers' other relievers could be pieced together to pitch an inning or two, and Brazoban is good for two, so you really just need Lima to hold the Giants down for five. (Of course, coming back from a finger fracture, Lima will overcome his biggest hurdle Saturday just getting out of the first inning and/or getting past Bonds for the first time - he's probably as likely to go seven innings as 1 1/3.)

So what does it all mean? We know the Dodgers will return home Sunday night in first place. As Rob McMillin pointed out, this guarantees nothing, but considering the alternative, it was an important step.

Now, with a victory in one of the two remaining games in San Francisco, the Dodgers can do much more. They can knock their magic number for winning the National League West to five, and they can position themselves to clinch a tie for the division title before the October 1-3 home series against the Giants even begins. And it's become apparent that the Dodgers might not want to wait until the last minute to their dirty work.

Ken Gurnick reported tonight that Kazuhisa Ishii will start Tuesday against Colorado and that Wilson Alvarez will stay in the bullpen for the remainder of the regular season, hoping to nurse a helpful inning or two out of his ailing body. Edwin Jackson will start Monday's series opener against the Rockies. This means that if the rotation continues unchanged, Jackson and Ishii would be in line to take the starts for the final two games of the season against San Francisco.

I happen to have more confidence in these two pitchers than some people do, but not even I like them as my favorite options with the season on the line. Of course, I'm not too big a fan of seeing pitchers go on three days rest, either.

What would probably happen is that Jackson would go on Saturday, with a quick hook at the ready. If the season were still in doubt Sunday, the Dodgers would have the choice of starting Ishii ... or Perez on three days rest, knowing that if there were a 163rd game to decide the title, it would be back in San Francisco, where Perez thrived tonight.

It's a crazy time, isn't it? But for Dodger fans, it's still happy crazy. We didn't drop the boy.

(And I suppose it's hella-lousy up in San Francisco this evening...)

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