LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp watched on a clubhouse TV a replay of Nomar Garciaparra's dramatic walk-off home run in the 10th inning against the Padres on Monday, giving the Dodgers the first lead they had all game, but the only lead that mattered. "That should be on a poster," he said to no one in particular about the swing, and the moment. Should this win send the Dodgers roaring into the playoffs, it may be the poster moment of the Dodgers' 2006 season.
"It was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it," said Garciaparra, whose homer gave the Dodgers a half-game lead in the National League West. "I'm just glad to witness it and glad to be a part of it, and I'm just glad that we were able to pull this off." The night had not gone smoothly for Garciaparra before he sent Rudy Seanez's 3-1 pitch far out of any fielder's reach and into the left-field seats. He was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Friday after straining his left quad while running out a grounder to first base. The Dodgers first baseman appeared to still be bothered by the quad on Monday, grounding into a double play in the first inning with two runners on base, on a throw he may have been capable of beating out were he at full speed. Regardless of the injury, Garciaparra said he just wanted to be in the lineup. He went quietly with a fly ball to right field in the fourth inning, but doubled to right-center field in the fifth inning. It was his only hit in five at-bats through the first nine innings. That fifth at-bat was especially painful. The 33-year-old came up to the plate with his club down, 6-5, after the Dodgers had already scored one run in the inning. Judging by the ovations he receives at Dodger Stadium when he comes to the plate, Garciaparra seems to have earned the crowd's trust by coming through in key situations. With two men on with two outs in the eighth and his team down by one, he was just the player the Dodgers faithful -- and most likely his teammates -- would want to see at the plate in such a situation. However, a swinging strikeout against Padres setup man Scott Linebrink ended the inning, and the inability to plate any runs was magnified when San Diego put up three runs in the ninth for a 9-5 lead. San Diego's lead was four runs -- a non-save situation -- which meant Padres closer Trevor Hoffman would not take the mound in the ninth inning. The four-run deficit may have been the Dodgers' greatest blessing. Reliever Jon Adkins started the ninth, but after surrendering consecutive home runs to Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew, Hoffman was summoned. Just four saves shy of the all-time save record, Hoffman has been in this situation hundreds of times. He entered with 55 saves in 57 opportunities against the Dodgers, more than against any other team in baseball.
After two pitches by Hoffman, the Dodgers had two more solo home runs, tying the game at nine. Rookie Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson did the honors.
"You know what won that game right there? It was that ninth inning," Garciaparra said. "No one was giving up. I got that last hit, but that's nothing. That ninth inning was incredible. That just shows a lot about these guys. They didn't give up; they persevered. How easy is it to just put your head down, when you're battling all day, down by four coming into the ninth?"
Garciaparra did not give up after his tough individual effort on Monday, having only a double to his name heading into the 10th inning. But as he said about his teammates, he persevered, as well. Garciaparra battled all day, and after Kenny Lofton walked to start off the 10th, Garciaparra received another chance to come through.
As Garciaparra connected on Seanez's 3-1 pitch, left fielder Dave Roberts hardly moved, since there was no need. After a one-day stint in second place, the first baseman's home run put his crew back on top heading into its final six games at Dodger Stadium this season.
"I jumped out of the dugout. I'm sitting there, expecting it to happen, to tell you the truth," said Anderson of the walk-off homer. "Sitting on the bench, the way things were going all night, I was just expecting good things to keep happening."
Somehow, some way, the good things kept happening on Monday night.
It all ended with Garciaparra's homer, and he may have said it best about a game that featured 34 hits and seven Dodgers home runs:
"That's one, if you TiVoed it, you're going to watch it over and over again, and watch it to the end."
|"No one was giving up. I got that last hit, but that's nothing. That ninth inning was incredible. That just shows a lot about these guys. They didn't give up; they persevered."|
|-- Nomar Garciaparra|
Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.