Was it the blockbuster trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers from the Boston Red Sox this past Saturday that pushed me to the Stadium the following day?
The answer is yes, and I made up my mind after Gonzalez, the cornerstone of the deal that will see the Dodgers pick up contracts totaling $260 million, smash a three-run homer in the first inning on Saturday that helped the Boys in Blue to an 8-2 victory over Miami.
Gonzalez was born in San Diego, and is of Mexican-American heritage, which will endear him to a large fan base, the same way pitcher Fernando Valenzuela did in the 1980′s.
Dodger Stadium opened its gates in 1962 when the club hosted the Cincinnati Reds, and is still beautiful and a jewel.
Arriving at the ballpark slightly after noon, my sister Frances and I purchased tickets in the loge section, where we had a perfect view of left fielder Shane Victorino, the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies.
The pitching matchup had San Diego native Aaron Harang facing quick-working Mark Buehrle.
In the first inning, Harang got around hits from Justin Ruggiano and Carlos Lee, and in the bottom of the frame, the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead on Gonzalez’s hit that plated Punto, who walked with one out.
Harang gave up a one-out double to Greg Dobbs in the second, then retired Donovan Solano and Rob Brantly.
Harang worked a perfect third before allowing a towering, two-out homer to center from Giancarlo Stanton, a local high school product who graduated from Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks, where he was offered a baseball scholarship from USC, and football scholarships from UNLV and UCLA.
Stanton decided to sign with the Marlins, is one of the game’s brightest stars at age 22, and can smack a baseball nearly 500 feet.
Miami led 3-1 in the fifth on Brantly’s first big-league homer to right center, and in the sixth, Victorino pulled off a brilliant catch, crashing into the wall as he snared Lee’s liner.
In the bottom of the frame, pinch-hitter Juan Uribe singled with two out, and Victorino singled, but Punto struck out swinging.
After Matt Kemp opened the seventh with a walk and Gonzalez singled, Hanley Ramirez fanned looking, but Andre Ethier’s hit made it 3-2.
Miami tacked on a run in the eighth on an error by shortstop Ramirez that made it 4-2. In the home half of the inning, the Dodgers, who stranded a season-high 16 runners, loaded the bases as Mark Ellis singled with one out, Victorino had an infield hit, and Kemp walked. Alas, Gonzalez’s fly only made it to the warning track for the third out.
When Jose Reyes, who signed a huge free-agent contract after numerous years with the New York Mets homered to begin the ninth, and Lee followed with a mammoth drive, it became clear the Dodgers were in hot water.
Ramirez walked to begin the ninth, Ethier then lined to left, and pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy was hit by a pitch. However, A.J. Ellis and Mark Ellis both lined out.
Still, there are few things more delightful than taking in a game on a warm summer afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.