THE CALL THAT COULD HAVE BEEN
*Editors Note: The words you will read below are what you might have heard when we came back from commercial Thursday night, starting as Clayton Kershaw finished up his warm-up pitches.
As best you can, read this in Vin Scully’s voice, in Vin Scully’s cadence.
“When Kershaw takes the hill, you get the sense he is not pitching against Daniel Murphy, he is not pitching against the Nationals, rather he is pitching against the Phillies, the Cardinals, the Mets, the millions of people who have written and spoken about Clayton’s troubles in the post-season.
No, you must imagine that Clayton is pitching against those doubts that bubble up in the head of every athlete – at one time or another – those doubts that ask, “Am I really that good?”
Anyway, enough about that.
Daniel Murphy digs in and Kershaw comes set at the belt.
Fastball, up and in.
Whoa! So much for fatigue.
That fastball had a little extra something on it. In fact, I dont think Kershaw hit 95 even once on Tuesday afternoon but, sure enough, fatigue is no match for adrenaline.
Kershaw stares in at Ruiz, shakes his head, once, now twice. Kershaw comes set at the belt, and the one and oh pitch is fastball in on the hands; short pop on the infield, Culberson takes a few steps back and just like that, Daniel Murphy is retired.
You have to wonder if Dave Roberts will go out and get Kershaw, having got the one man he was brought in to get.
Well, I guess we have our answer.
Roberts is staying put, and you get the feeling that it would have taken Roberts, Honeycutt, and a team of coaches to pry the ball out of Kershaw’s hand at this point.
So the chess game continues.
Well, fresh out of options, Dusty Baker has gone to the last man standing.
Wilmer Difo, the rookie shortstop is Baker’s and the Nationals’ last hope.
Wilmer, from Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic, made his major league debut on May 19th, and here he finds himself square in the eye of the hurricane.
Difo, a switch hitter, digs in from the right side against the left-handed Kershaw.
Fastball, way inside. Difo had to do a little dance to avoid that 93 MPH heater. Difo must be wondering how he got himself into this situation, and wondering if he can pull a Houdini act and get himself out of it.
Kershaw is ready, Harper leads from second and Werth off of first. Gonzalez is playing behind Werth, and Seager is bird-dogging Harper, trying to keep him close.
The 1-0 delivery is a fastball fouled away. And Kershaw has squared his account.
When you look out in the infield, Seager is doing his best to keep Harper from getting too big of a lead, hoping to keep him from scoring on a single.
Of course, with two outs, the runners will be off on contact. Harper runs pretty well, and knowing the way Harper plays the game, there will be no holding him at third if the opportunity to score arises.
Here comes the 1-1 pitch, Difo swings through a 91 MPH slider. I tell you, that just isn’t fair.
Difo started the season in AAA, and now, in the biggest moment of the year, in quite possibly the biggest moment of his life, he has to face arguably the best pitcher on the planet.
Kershaw brings his hands high above his head, and slowly brings them down and settles at the belt. He takes a look at the runners, and the runners GO.
Difo dribbles it foul up along third, and the runners have to return from whence they came.
Difo really had a defensive swing on that pitch, and really, who can
blame him. He is doing his level best just to stay in the box at this point.
You know, this is the 167th game that each of the Nationals and the Dodgers have played this season; they have split the first two games of this series; and here we are in the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run game. Folks, it doesn’t get much closer than this.
Kershaw has rubbed up a new ball and is now ready to go.
Difo digs in while Harper and Werth take their leads. The 1-2 delivery is a BREAKING ball in the DIRT, SWUNG ON and MISSED. Ruiz keeps the ball in front of him and guns it to Gonzalez covering first to complete the strike out.
At 12:41 in the morning, East Coast time, the Dodgers have won the division series; and maybe, just as importantly, Clayton Kershaw has slayed his demons.
I tell you folks, just when you think you have seen it all – you get Clayton Kershaw saving a game in which Dodger CLOSER, Kenley Jansen, threw nearly three innings and 51 pitches.
And, not for nothing, but the last time Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young winner recorded a save – it came ALL the way back in 2006, in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League. His catcher that day, Kenley Jansen.
Well, that’ll do it from the nation’s capital where the Dodgers have defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 to advance to the National League Championship Series.
For Charlie Steiner, Rick Monday, and the rest of our crew, this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good evening.”