Just about everyone I know in Los Angeles knows I am planning to go to Dodger Stadium on Friday evening to watch Clayton Kershaw go for his sixteenth victory in a game of little consequence inasmuch as the team has clinched the division and the fellows are just tuning up before their first playoff opponent next week. It may have no bearing on the pennant race, but I wouldn't call it meaningless: the game is as full of rituals and meanings as a certain kind of epic poem, an Edenic fantasy of the kind that Bart Giamatti loved.
So my friend Eric and I drive up Elysian Park Avenue in his jeep, passing a guy holding a sign begging for a ticket. We park on the left field lot, then walk around to our seats along the right field line. Watching the crowd, which is part of the show, you realize that people have many reasons for going to baseball games and watching the game is only one of them. Peanuts, beer, the seventh-inning stretch, the organ playing "Put on a Happy Face" for old-timers and the YMCA song for green-eyed teens in hoodies, the ubiquitous telephones in camera mode, the woman in provocative courtesan attire with her male friend in a t-shirt that says "that's right, bitch" two rows ahead of us. It's like an amusement park, wwith beachballs even, though I stil fail to understand the attraction of bouncing the thing around the loge or field levels. There's even a bar where you can watch the game on television with Vin Scully's commentary, eat Dodger Dogs and drink old fashioneds in peace and quiet. The bartender takes pride in his work.
In spite of all temptations we are intent on watching the game, not the scoreboard. In the top of the first, Kershaw takes care of the Rockies with exteme prejudice -- maybe a dozen pitches at most. The Dodgers get a base hit from Crawford, another from Gonzalez, then Uribe slams a double to the wall, Ellis the catcher singles and goes to second on a misguided throw, then Ellis the second baseman does the exact same thing, and LA is up 4-0. A couple of innings go by. Gonzalez, nicknamed A-Gon, homers to right -- it's his hundredth RBI of the season. Crawford's three-run home run is a beautiful arc just inside the foul pole in right field. It lifts the game to 8-0 and the rout is on. Kershaw has had the worst run support of any Dodger starter but they're making up for it tonight. Now it's 10-0, thanks to an A.J. Ellis two-run shot.
Well, there's little for a Dodger fan to dislike in a game that ends 11-0 in favor of the boys in blue. This is what I wrote to a fellow enthusiast in the immedate aftermath:
Kershaw has an arresting motion and is righteously competitive at the plate; he was on base for the three-run homer. I think this victory, lowering his league-best era and adding to his strikeout lead, assures him the Cy Young. Puig threw an out-of-play ball in the general direction of where we were sitting and a man in the next row captured it. Otherwise Puig did nothing spectacular although his very presence is electric whether fouling a ball off his foot, spinning around at the plate, or nonchalantly catching a fly ball. Kemp made a gorgeous play. Mark Ellis made a tough play look routine. I believe the Dodgers lead the major leagues in shutouts, and tonight may have brought the total up to twenty-one. The poor Rockies, hapless in the field, over-matched by Kershaw through the first six innings, made Marmol, Capuano, and League, who pitched the seventh, eight, and ninth, look like the legal team you'd least like to go up against in a weak-case suit. Kershaw's bow on the dugout steps in the bottom of the sixth when he knew he was going to be lifted was probably the nicest moment of the night. Now if they would only hit like this in the playoffs. . .