The realization pounded through Chavez Ravine in rhythm with a stadium that was shaking to its ancient core.
The awareness emerged through Yasmani Grandal’s fist pump, Rich Hill’s leg whip, Justin Turner’s shaggy smile.
The belief resounded throughout the Southland sports landscape with a thumping that could be felt all the way to Chicago, and could you hear it?
The Los Angeles Dodgers can do this. They can really do this.
The feeling was as unmistakable as the first strains of “I Love L.A” that filled Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night when the Dodgers finally put down their gloves after thrashing the Chicago Cubs, 6-0, to take a two-games-to-one lead in the National League Championship Series.
“We’ve got a little momentum going,” said Andrew Toles, one of their many unlikely heroes, with the smallest of grins.
A little that feels like a lot.
They still need two wins. It’s only the third game of a seven-game series. The history books will note that there is still about a 30 percent chance that the Cubs could overcome this deficit.
But the Dodgers haven’t felt this close to a World Series since the last time they were in the World Series 28 years ago.
This is the first time the Dodgers have led in a league championship series since Game 5 against the New York Mets in 1988. In their ensuing three visits to the NLCS, they only won as many as two games once.
And, oh yeah, combined with Sunday’s 1-0 win in Game 2, the Dodgers have pitched consecutive postseason shutouts for the first time in the history of a franchise that once employed teammates Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
“We like our chances,” said Justin Turner, and he’s not alone.
After the game, dressed in his sport coat and tennis shoes, Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter jumped on the field and joined the Dodgers’ traditional high-five parade with some of the wildest hand slaps in boardroom history. The celebration ended when Walter jumped into Kenley Jansen’s arms as if the owner was a catcher.
Later, typical of this Dodger culture, Walter retired to the clubhouse to congratulate a guy whose Tuesday performance might have otherwise gone unnoticed – reliever Joe Blanton, who calmly rebounded to throw a perfect inning in making his first appearance since his Game 1 grand-slam gopher ball to the Cubs’ Miguel Montero.
“That kind of player is what we’re all about,” said Walter.
The victory was filled with players who epitomize the Dodgers, beginning with starter Hill, who most had picked as the probable loser in the battle with defending Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.
Several hours before the game, while riding an elevator crowded with stadium workers down to the Dodgers’ clubhouse, Hill was barely recognized, few even looked at him. Much later, he was cheered by thousands as he skipped off the mound with every big pitch, and there were plenty, as he allowed just two singles in six innings.
The 36-year-old who had been fighting with blisters and bad pitches – he had a 6.43 ERA in his previous two postseason games – showed up huge from the moment he struck out Addison Russell and retired Montero on a grounder with runners on second and third in the second.
Hill battled. The Cubs did not. Hill was tough. The Cubs were not, appearing to surrender on several plate appearances, revealing little discipline, absent focus, and lots of hanging heads.
Just asking, but how did that team win 103 games during the regular season? Were they really historically one of the best regular-season teams in baseball history? Could somebody re-check those numbers, because right now, the Cubs’ only historical marker is a resemblance to the last several years of the San Diego Padres.
Forget them trying to overcome 108 years of failure, the Cubs can’t even seem to handle a couple of innings of failure. With each bad swing, they seemed to retreat into themselves a little further until, after fumbling a run-scoring grounder in the eighth inning, infielder Javier Baez appeared to almost forget to throw the ball to first base before finally flinging it in frustration.
“Not necessarily shell-shocked,” claimed Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who must have been shell-shocked when he said that because, no, his team is absolutely shell-shocked.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, followed the lead of Hill with another big comeback move, Grandal’s two-run homer in the fourth inning on a seven-pitch plate appearance during which he was initially down 0 and 2. It was his first hit since the first game of the postseason, and it set the tone for the kind of smart, resilient baseball that Dodgers fans have seen for the last couple of weeks.
“We feed off of each other, that’s what we’re about,” said Adrian Gonzalez. “It’s what Doc (manager Dave Roberts) preaches in spring training. Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep going, keep grinding, keep fighting, give the other team the best battle we can give them, and eventually we can wear them down.”
It figures that the club’s unofficial theme song is “Never Gonna Give You Up” by the iconic Rick Astley. That song was blaring in their clubhouse immediately after Tuesday’s game. For the first time this year, the Dodgers also celebrated by spinning a tiny disco ball and mixing in a bit of boogie haze from a small smoke machine.
“It’s all positive thinking and good momentum,” said Blanton.
Positively, they need but two more wins in four remaining games. Precisely, they need only one more win before giving the ball to Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers can do this. They can really do this.