October 3, 2004


Finley's Slam Is the Grand Finale as Dodgers Pull Off a Stunner, 7-3 (Steve Springer, October 3, 2004, LA Times)

It was 4:40 p.m. Saturday as Steve Finley walked to home plate at Dodger Stadium. He paused to soak in the environment, to feel the cheers of the crowd of 54,594 wash over him, to look at the clear blue sky, to note the shadows that stretched nearly all the way to right field.

Then he turned his attention to San Francisco Giant left-hander Wayne Franklin, looked at the three Dodgers on base and focused on the task at hand.

Down by three runs entering the ninth inning, the Dodgers had already scored three times and there was still only one out. With the Giant defense playing in, all that was needed was a fly ball or a deep grounder to get the winning run home.

"I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere," said the 39-year-old Finley, a 16-year veteran. "I knew I would get it done."

Did he ever. Finley got his fly ball on the second pitch from Franklin, a fastball that cleared the wall in right field at the 375-foot sign, a grand slam to give the Dodgers a 7-3 victory, a franchise-record 53 comeback victories and, most important, the championship of the National League West Division for the first time in nine years. [...]

With Giant closer Dustin Hermanson on the mound, the Dodgers began the bottom of the ninth with a single to left by Shawn Green. Hermanson walked Robin Ventura and, after striking out Alex Cora, walked pinch-hitter Jose Hernandez to load the bases.

Up came pinch-hitter Hee-Seop Choi. DePodesta, who has taken a wave of criticism for the deal with the Florida Marlins that brought Choi to L.A, admitted his dream scenario was for Choi to win the game.

Choi did well enough, coaxing an eight-pitch walk out of Hermanson, who had saved 17 games in 20 opportunities before Saturday, to bring home the first Dodger run.

Exit Hermanson, enter Jason Christiansen.

Cesar Izturis hit a ground ball to short. Cody Ransom, inserted into the game for defensive purposes at the start of the inning, failed to come up with the grounder, the ball remaining at his feet as another Dodger run scored.

Exit Christiansen, enter Herges, a former Dodger.

Jayson Werth lined a run-scoring single to right, tying the score as the bases remained loaded.

Exit Herges, enter Franklin.

As Finley swung, pitcher Jose Lima, poised to leap in joy as he watched the flight of the ball, muttered to himself, "Finally ... finally ... finally."

...and Oakland,
Guerrero, Erstad, Anderson Get the Clutch Hits in 5-4 Victory (Mike DiGiovanna, October 3, 2004, LA Times)
Amid the champagne-soaked visiting clubhouse in Network Associates Coliseum, where the Angels wildly celebrated their first American League West Division championship since 1986, there was a sweet mixture of innocence and experience, of wide-eyed wonder and veteran sensibilities.

There was new right fielder Vladimir Guerrero bouncing around the room, basking in the glory of his first playoff appearance after seven long years in the baseball purgatory that was Montreal, soaking up every ounce of alcohol his teammates poured over his head and all the most-valuable-player bouquets they tossed his way.

There was second-year owner Arte Moreno getting thoroughly doused in champagne and beer by his players and coaches, just moments after high-fiving and hugging Angels as they walked off the field after Saturday's pulsating 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Oakland Athletics in front of 42,832.

Then there was the old guard, the players who have been through this before, the guys who helped bring the Angels their first World Series championship in 2002 and know that as significant an achievement as Saturday was, this day was as much a beginning of a journey as the culmination of something special. [...]

[T]he way the Angels responded in the last week of the season, winning twice at home against Oakland last weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive, taking three of four at Texas and beating two of Oakland's heralded Big Three pitchers, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, Friday night and Saturday to end the A's four-year playoff run, who's to count them out? [...]

The Angels entered the final series of the regular season needing two wins to clinch their fourth division title, and had they lost Saturday, it would have set up a one-game, winner-take-all showdown against the A's today.

But thanks to the brute strength of Guerrero, the will of Erstad, the cool efficiency of Garret Anderson and the dominance of one of baseball's best bullpens, today's season finale is somewhat moot — it could have a bearing on whom the Angels play in the division series, but not on the AL West standings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 3, 2004 10:52 AM

After the miserable national TV ratings the last inter-area Series got in 2000 when the Mets lost to the Yankees, I think the Fox Sports folks won't be doing backflips over the idea of a Dodgers-Angels series, unless they can liven it up the way the Giants and A's did back in '89 and schedule an earthquake right at the start of one of the broadcasts.

Posted by: John at October 3, 2004 12:29 PM

Woe...woe is me.

Both my beloved A's and my well-liked Giants, down the tubes.

Posted by: H.D. at October 3, 2004 2:08 PM

The horror! Seduced as a child by the great Mays, I have yet to see the Giants world champs. If the Giants had a league-average bullpen, they woulda won 100. Sabean should return his paycheck for GMing this little fiasco.

Posted by: JimGooding at October 3, 2004 5:27 PM

The surprise is that sportswriter Springer used 'most important' correctly. Maybe there's hope.

Posted by: old maltese at October 4, 2004 10:21 AM