LOS ANGELES -- His offense left 16 men on base and went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. His defense gave up a gift run by allowing a fly ball to drop between two fielders. His starting pitcher couldn't even give him four innings and yet
This may have been a National League game, but it had a decidedly American League flavor, from the interminable length (almost four hours) to the ceaseless pitching changes. It's fitting then that it also had all the hallmarks of a Torre-stamped postseason victory, for it looked very similar to the pattern that he copyrighted for a dozen champagne-drenched years 3,000 miles away: Trust your gut, preach patience to your offense, encourage them to think in small bits rather than big blows, rely heavily on your bullpen and don't be afraid to use your closer for more than one inning. The same formula that Torre used to perfection and led to four World Series titles in New York worked nearly as well in Game 1 in Los Angeles.
It began with their approach against Cardinals ace
"We were trying to get him out of the game," said the Dodgers center fielder
Indeed, by drawing eight walks, the Dodgers exhibited remarkable plate discipline, but not every Dodger was content to wait. Kemp's blast came on the first pitch of the at-bat, but it served as an early sign that the Dodgers would not be the pushovers so many expected them to be in this series. Asked later whether he was intimidated by facing the man who may very well be on the verge of winning his second NL Cy Young award in his past three healthy seasons, Kemp smiled and said, "I play baseball, too."
If Kemp and the offense felt overshadowed by their mound nemesis, there was one area at least in which Los Angeles appeared to have a decided edge in this series: their stellar relief corps that had been bolstered by the midseason acquisition of
"To me [the key] was just the bullpen," said Torre. "That's our strength. We get to the seventh inning and we feel pretty good about who we have coming in."
Torre didn't wait that long to go to his bullpen. His first call came in the fourth inning when he had
During that magical 12-year run in New York, Torre was lauded for his uncanny knack to seemingly push all the right buttons at exactly the right time, and that skill does not seem to have deserted him even as he changed leagues. First, he started
It was the rare move that did not come through for Torre, who has more gut moves planned for the rest of the series, including putting Hudson back in the lineup in Game 2, and starting
"We wanted to make a statement," said Kemp. "Everybody's saying we're the underdogs, but we have confidence that we're a great team. Everything all-around, we're good at and hopefully we made a statement tonight."