Some don't like this part of baseball but it is one of my favorite parts. The guy on the end of the bench who can be a difference maker at any time in any game. In football the 40th man usually just sits, in basketball the 12th man rarely if ever can make an impact. But in baseball the bench can always play a role, and often does in every game. The guys on the bench range from the old veteran who used to start and no longer has the game, the veteran who never started but has known his role was utility from the day he made the big leagues, and sometimes the young prospect who has not quite reached his time. The Dodgers bench is not very strong and has not had much of a positive impact since the all-star game but it only takes one game to change a perception.
Mark Loretta got the game winning hit but it was more then Mark Loretta in the 9th inning. Juan Pierre ran for James Loney and scored the tying run in what would have been a very close play if it was not Juan Pierre running. Belliard for all
intensive purposes intents and purposes is a bench player at this stage of his career but due to a hot hand is starting in place of Orlando Hudson. He delivered the key hit to bring in Juan Pierre with the tying run. And finally Mark Loretta with his bloopner (1/2 bloop/1/2 line drive) in just the right spot to win the game.
Probably nothing is harder then staging a two out comeback with no one on base but the Dodgers managed to do that thanks to luck (Holliday), patience (Casey Blake), skill (Belliard), more patience (Martin), and finally more luck (Loretta). Only one ball was hit hard and that was by Belliard. The two walks by Blake and Martin were almost as important as Franklin used up his whole repertoire on Blake giving Belliard plenty of time to see everything he had to throw. It was truly a team victory.
And how about Mark Loretta the punching bag of every commentator on True Blue for months? What a moment for him, as he said in his post game interview he never had a bigger hit in his career and Mark has had a hell of a career. He had the misfortune of coming up in 1995 two years after the Robin Yount era and didn't see a post season roster until 2005 while with the Padres. Over the last 16 years he has accumulated almost 6,000 plate appearances and yet will now be forever remembered for one appearance on Oct 8th, 2009. Loretta was signed by the Dodgers to smack left hand pitchers around and handle some infield chores for Blake/Hudson/Loney but after a great start he became a huge drag on the team, failing time after time from June on. Many of us felt he should not even be on the post game roster. And when you construct a team based on statistics I'm sure we were right.
But Joe Torre went with his gut, took the experienced Loretta over DeWitt and the Dodgers have a new hero in town. It was a typical Mark Loretta at bat, soft line drive to left center field, no power, just a single, basically his whole career in a nutshell. What a way to cap a career. This is the kind of game that is going to stay with us forever, because the win was so improbable, it makes it ever so sweet.
Savor it, most fans will never ever have this feeling, these games don't happen very often in the postseason. Don't look toward tomorrow until tomorrow. Just let the good vibes flow around you for 24 hours.
Congratulations to all the Dodger fans who got to see this in person. It was amazing at home, I can't even fathom how it would have felt to be at the stadium.