The Dodgers hit seven home runs Monday night and needed every one, overcoming four-run deficits twice in a remarkable 11-10 victory in 10 innings that put them back into first place by one-half game and had to be seen to be believed.
"This will be a game," said manager Grady Little, "that people around here will remember for a long time."
The seven blasts by a team that ranked last in the league in homers included a stunning four in a row in the bottom of the ninth inning, and a shocking two-run walk-off blast by Nomar Garciaparra in the greatest performance by a disabled hitter in these parts since Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.
"People were in here celebrating like we won the World Series," said starting pitcher Brad Penny, who speaks from personal experience. "It was the best game I've ever seen."
It was wild before it even started, as the Dodgers pulled out every motivational tool in reach. Derek Lowe was fuming over comments made by Padres third baseman Russell Branyan that Monday night's game "separates the men from the boys," so he taped the comment over the clubhouse doorway in true bulletin-board fashion.
In a team meeting, club chairman Frank McCourt gave a pep talk and Little sent out a juggled lineup that included a new clean-up hitter (Jeff Kent), the gimpy Garciaparra (lame from knee and quad injuries) and journeyman pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson in place of slumping rookie Andre Ethier.
Kent had four hits, three for extra bases and the first of the ninth-inning homers, but Anderson did even better. He had five hits, two of them homers, including the fourth of the ninth-inning homers that sent the game into extra innings, plus a triple.
"Thank God Grady put me in there," said Anderson, obtained at the trade deadline. "This is absolutely the most wonderful night of my career. I hit a fastball [in the ninth], but I don't know if it was up or down, in or out."
Of the four homers in a row, two came off Jon Adkins (Kent and J.D. Drew) to turn the game into a save situation, the next two coming off Trevor Hoffman (Russell Martin and Anderson), whose bid for an inevitable all-time saves record was delayed when he blew this one. It was the first time since 1964 that any team had hit four consecutive homers and only the fourth time in history. The last three homers came on consecutive pitches.
"I don't think I've ever seen anything like that," said Drew. "Maybe something similar in St. Paul [of the Independent League], but not in the middle of a pennant race. It's as good as it gets."
The Dodgers had 19 hits and needed them, because their bullpen was only a little better than San Diego's, and neither had much of which to be proud. The final four Padres relievers allowed seven runs in two-plus innings, while the final three Dodgers relievers allowed six runs in three innings.
The Dodgers overcame four-run deficits twice. The first one was courtesy of Penny, who dug a 4-0 first-inning hole, but stopped the bleeding, and by the time he left after five innings, his offense had tied the game against dreaded nemesis Jake Peavy, with Anderson and Rafael Furcal contributing home runs.
Jonathan Broxton, after losing Sunday's game, was headed for another loss after allowing a pair of eighth-inning runs, but the Dodgers answered with Anderson's triple and Wilson Betemit's RBI single in the eighth.
|"It would have been easy for us to get down in this game, but no one did. I watched all those guys hit home runs in the ninth, and I wanted to be part of it, you know?"|
|-- Nomar Garciaparra|
Two shots by Kent and Drew, and it was a two-run lead and Bochy hurriedly called on Hoffman, and not under his normal warmup conditions.
"If Saito doesn't give up those runs and Hoffman starts the inning like normal, we might not win this game," said Penny. "Everything had to go just the way it went for this to happen."
"He picked us up all year," Garciaparra said of Saito, the 36-year-old rookie closer. "It was time for us to pick him up. It would have been easy for us to get down in this game, but no one did. I watched all those guys hit home runs in the ninth, and I wanted to be part of it, you know?"
But the home runs in the ninth only tied the game. Aaron Sele came on and let the Padres take the lead again on a double by Brian Giles and an RBI single by Josh Bard. But after erasing a pair of four-run deficits, the Dodgers were feeling pretty good about needing only one run.
"I didn't see anybody come in the dugout with their head down," said Martin. "They were looking for their bats to win the game. We never quit."
"As many times as we came back tonight," said Anderson, "if you didn't think we'd come back in the 10th, you'd be crazy."
With former Dodger Rudy Saenez taking over for Hoffman in the bottom of the 10th, Kenny Lofton led off with a key walk to bring up Garciaparra, who sent a 3-1 pitch into the pavilion and signaled that he knew it with a waved fist before he let go of the bat.
Even Kent conceded that this one was something special.
"I've never seen anything like this in a 15-plus-year career," he said. "It was an incredible finish. But it's just one game in 162. It was a great game, but for me, I have to take this in stride."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.