It was loud… REAL loud; as loud as I’ve heard Dodger Stadium since Manny’s Granny in 2009; as loud as the incredible come-from-behind victory in game-2 of the 2009 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals on the famous Matt Holliday nutcracker shot. But this time it was different. The huge Dodger Stadium crowd wasn’t just yelling. No sir. This time the 54,242 in attendance were yelling in sync, as if led by a symphony conductor. It was crisp, it was clean, and most of all it was understandable; VERY understandable – perhaps even in Milwaukee. It was 54,242 Dodger fans yelling “MVP. MVP. MVP,” and it went on for nearly five minutes after Matt Kemp’s dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the NL East leading Washington Nations 4-3 in what was easily the most exciting game in several years.
The game started with Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg and Dodgers number two Chad Billingsley each throwing a masterpiece, yet neither would figure in the decision. That rested in the hands of the respective bullpens, neither of which was particularly sharp. In the end, it was the Dodgers’ 37-year-old Jamey Wright who was the benefactor of Kemp’s dramatic walk-off home run to center field and the Nationals’ 29-year-old Tom Gorzelanny the victim of said home run on a 1-2 mistake pitch right over the middle of the plate, and if you make a mistake to Matt Kemp, you will pay, and Tom Gorzelanny paid dearly.
Almost lost in the fray was the fact that the other Washington phenom, 19-year-old Bryce Harper, was making his MLB debut on this night. Harper went 1 for 3 on the night with a double and it appeared that he was going to have the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th inning. For good measure, the Nationals added another run in the 9th inning and put their 3-1 lead into the hands of their fire-throwing closer Henry Rodriguez. Although Rodriguez hit 102 on the Dodger Stadium radar gun, his control was out of control when he unleashed a wild pitch with a runner on third base TWICE, the second coming on strike three to Dodger shortstop Dee Gordon on what would have been the game winning third out but instead allowed the tying run to score and forced the game into extra innings; and the rest, as the say, is history.
It was Kemp’s seventh career walk-off hit of which five have been home runs. The 423 foot home run was Kemp’s MLB leading 11th home run of the season and set a new record for the most home runs by a Dodger during the month of April, eclipsing Gary Sheffield’s 10 home runs set in April 2000 – and there are still two games remaining in April 2012. Anybody foolish enough to bet that he won’t hit at least one more before April ends? I didn’t think so.