The Game of the Century?

Dodgers 11, Padres 10 (10 innings)

It was the game of the century, at least this young century. The Dodgers, who were last in the league in home runs at the time, hit four consecutive bombs in the bottom of the ninth inning (in five pitches) to tie the game against the Padres, the Padres took back the lead in the tenth, and then Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the tenth to win it for L.A. This was mid-September, in the midst of a two-way race for the NL West lead. For pure regular-season drama, there have been very few games like it.

The action was also intense in the gameday chats. The Padres blog Ducksnorts, which previously had a high of 300 comments, posted over 800 during this game. Dodger Thoughts also had about 800 gameday comments. So I’ve combined WPA tracking with “the best of” comments from both blogs to give you a feel for the action. In the following notes, “DS” stands for comments from Ducksnorts, and “DT” stands for comments from Dodger Thoughts.

As you can see, the intensity was high from the very first pitch:

First Inning
DS: Not that I mind, but why do the Dodgers keep sticking Marlon Anderson out in left field instead of Andre Ethier?

Mike Piazza doubles, Adrian Gonzalez scores. Padres lead 1-0, WPA = .585
DT: Crap. And can someone explain to me how that 2-2 pitch to Piazza was not a strike? I hate to be one of those ball-strike call complainers but that sure looked like a strike to me. Sigh. Come on Brad!

DS: That ball was smoked…holy crap.. vin scully says that Lofton made a good effort…that ball was played horribly by Lofton.

DT: Bob’s current mood: choleric.

DS: Attaboy, Mikey. Got the crowd booing. Is Penny going crazy yet?

DT: Stop booing, you idiots, it’s not his fault he isn’t a Dodger anymore.

Mike Cameron triples, scoring two more runs. Padres WPA=.762
DS: JD Drew just played that ball from Cameron as poorly as Lofton

DS: Cameron: 15 RBIs vs. Dodgers this season.

DT: Bob’s current mood: sullen

Geoff Blum singles, scoring Cameron. Padres lead 4-0, WPA= .820
DS: Brad Penny is our friend. Serious hanger to Blum on 0-2. Man, if I were a Dodgers fan I’d be mighty pissed about that pitch.


DT: Why do the Dodgers make the Padres look like Murderer’s Row? I mean really – this is ridiculous.

DS: Has Vin Scully said, “The rout is on.” yet?

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

DT: I’m not actually giving up on this game. But I am about to give up on Bad Penny.

Bottom of first, first two Dodgers single.
DS: Hey Jake, no need to make this interesting.

Garciaparra hits into double play, Rafael Furcal to third. Jeff Kent drives in Furcal. Padres lead 4-1, WPA=.754
DT: Dear Nomar, take notice of what a veteran should do in a pennant chase…drive in runs…see Jeff Kent.

First Inning over
DS: Wow, Jake is some kind of fired up tonight. Mariano Duncan (1B coach) said something to Jake on his way off the field. Jake turned around and started jawing at him, the ump grabbed Jake by the collar and pulled him away.

DT: I’m not above Penny putting one in his ribs.

DT: I see a fight breaking out at some point tonight – two pitchers with bad tempers, tight pennant race, Mariano Duncan, we’ve got it all!

Top of the second, Brad Penny strikes out side around a single. Padres WPA=.753
DT: Brad Penny should strike out the side more often. He should work on that.

DS: Bummer about the lack of runs, but 57 pitches through 2 innings is nice.

Bottom of the second, Marlon Anderson homers, cutting the Padres lead to 4-2 and WPA to .689
DT: “Dumb Luck” Anderson has managed to hit 3HRs in like 25ABs for the Dodgers. Whether any of them will help, who knows. But its something.

DS: Marlon Anderson? Jake, come on. Are you telling them what pitches you’re going to throw?

Top of the third, Cameron singles but is caught stealing to end the inning. Padres WPA=.678
DS: Yep…76 now after the pitchout… I thought Cameron was safe..but the replay showed the tag just beat his foot to the bag.

Bottom of the third, Furcal homers. 4-3 Padres, WPA=.567
DT: Get out ball!

DS: Peavy doesn’t have the great stuff tonight. He’s giving it all back.

Still bottom of the third, Kent doubles on a ball off the center field fence (almost caught by Cameron) and scores on a ground-rule double by Drew. Score tied 4-4 and WPA=.500
DS: For some reason I am thinking of “The Tortoise and the Hare” right now.

DT: I find the fact that the Dodgers have tied this game to be one of the single most amazing events of the year.

DT: Woo hoo. Those of you who gave up on this game may now return humbly and quietly to your seats here, we’ll take you back with open arms.

DT: Bob’s current mood: Bewilderment

DS: I am guessing Jake’s a little too fired up. His pitches look like they did earlier in the year, very little life on them. I think he’s trying too hard.

Top of fourth, Padres get a man on, but he’s out stealing. Dodger WPA=.560
DS: This game is definitely a lot of work to watch.

Dodgers fail to score in the bottom of the fourth.
DS: Finally a scoreless inning by Jake.

Padres load bases with two out in the top of the fifth, including a single by Gonzalez, but Cameron lines out. Dodger WPA=.566.
DT: Bob’s mood at this time: resuscitated.

DS: Irritating. This shouldn’t even be a game. Talk about letting a guy off the hook.

DT: The Padres are letting Penny off the hook. He’s at 90 pitches and they’re 1st pitch swinging. Penny may actually get 2 more innings after batting.

DS: If you had Piazza and Gonzalez run in opposite directions from the same starting point, would the fabric of time be ripped assunder?

Dodgers threaten in the bottom of the fifth, including a double by Garciaparra, but don’t score. WPA=.500.
DS: Man, the Dodgers are really good at placing their fly balls into the gaps, while the Padres hitters are foolish enough to hit their fly balls right at tfielders.

Top of the sixth, Brett Tomko relieves Penny. Leadoff double by Blum.
DT: It’s Bombko time. Strap yourselves in (or down).

DS: Thank God. It’s Brent EarnedRunKo.

DS: I just once would like to see a Barfield AB that didn’t start like this:
1st pitch: swing and miss or foul
2nd pitch: foul
He seriously is swinging at every first pitch. And here he attempts a bunt after going down 0-1? His crappy AB has ruined this opportunity.

DT: I’ll never understand why any team would bunt when Tomko is on the hill.

Padres fail to score. Dodgers WPA=.575
DT: Like I’ve said all day long. Tomko is our Best pitcher. smile

Bottom of sixth, Alan Embree replaces Peavy. Dodgers load bases on Anderson single, walk and infield “hit” with none out. WPA=.789
DT: This Marlon Anderson thing is unreal.

DS: And Embree has caught the Peavy disease, unable to finish hitters off.

DT: that may be the first memory I have of Wilson Betemit walking in a Dodger uniform.

DS: Well, I guess that’s what you expect when you bring in your 8th most effective reliever.

DS: Ok I have this theory. If a team has a bases loaded, nobody out situation, and fails to score a single run, they automatically lose the game. No matter what happens from there on, they have no hope. It’s like a curse. My theory has worked twice, most recently a few weeks ago against Colorado. So hypothetically the Padres can win the game right here.

Cla Meredith relieves Embree. Dodgers don’t score, as they get an out at home on a grounder and Kenny Lofton hits into a double play. Meredith jumps into the individual WPA lead with 22. Overall team WPA=.500.
DS: that’s it! we won!

DS: Wow, Cla is a superfreak.

DT: pain…so much pain…

DT: There are more momentum switches here than a Foucalt’s Pendulum caught in a hurricane!

DS: I think the momentum just swung back.

DT: I’m not sure we can recover from that momentum shift

DT: TJ’s current mood: Flummoxed

Top of the seventh: Wilson Betemit makes an error and allows Brian Giles on. Gonzalez sacrifices him to second, but Josh Bard hits into a double play. Still 4-4, Dodgers WPA=.588
DS: Bochy doing a lot to not win the game in that inning. Sac bunt by Gonzalez, PR for Piazza when the man on 1st is the least important part of staying out of a DP, pulling Branyan…damn.

DT: Bard just GIDP’ed on a pitch loads the bases up if he takes it.
Some bad managing tonite.
Bad bunting.
Lots of bad.

Dodgers get one runner on, but don’t score in bottom of seventh. WPA=.500
DT: this game is the best game I’ve watched all year. But it is impossible to enjoy. The baseball equivalent of Schindler’s List.

Jonathan Broxton enters game for Dodgers. Padres take 6-4 lead in to of eighth on double by Josh Barfield and single by Todd Walker. Barfield’s hit is worth .305 WPA and the Padres’ WPA climbs to .840.
DT: Yes! let’s hear it for our rookies!!!!

DT: Aw heck I tells ya.

DT: Saito has pitched 5 innings this month! I hate to say it, but Grits is creeping into Jimbo territory.

DS: You guys notice how it doesn’t seem to matter who the Dodgers have working the eighth, we have their number?

Anderson triples and Betemit singles him home to cut lead to 6-5, but the inning ends as Garciaparra strikes out with runners on second and third. 6-5 Padres after 8, WPA=.838.
DS: I don’t get where Anderson thinks he’s Ethier all of a sudden. What a time to have a career night.

DT: Attention people who keep quiting on this game: learn your lesson!

DS: puddle underneath my chair on that out

DS: Scully’s voice went so flat on that K

DS: Mercifully, the inning ends.

DS: Barring any other Dodger offense, Hoffman will earn his save in the 9th — 3, 4, 5 batters.

DS: Damn this is big-time fun!

Takashi Saito enters the game for the Dodgers, but the Padres seemingly clinch the game with three more runs in the top of the ninth, making the score 9-5 and their WPA=.982. Key hits are a double by Bard and a Saito wild pitch.
DT: Man, even Saito’s getting hit. Lofton just saved a home run.

DT: Sheesh, now this game is turning into “The English Patient.” I hated that movie.

DT: Okay, I’m gonna go watch Studio 60 now (after barfing for a few minutes). Night everyone. Hope the rest of the season is less painful to watch than this series was.

DT: There’s still the wild card, there’s still the wild card, there’s still the wild card…

DS: Not going to be Trevor time —- yet. Given this game, though, I’m not counting it out.

DT: this is as discouraged as I have been about anything in a long time.

Bottom of the ninth. Jon Adkins pitching for the Padres. Jeff Kent hits a home run. The Dodgers’ WPA still only .04
DS: There’s your save opportunity.

DT: Is Kent teasing us?

J.D. Drew homers. Dodgers WPA=.09
DT: J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent stop getting my hopes up! They’re destined to come agonizingly close and then be unable to come through.

DS: We could be witnessing the implosion of our season.

Trevor Hoffman enters game. Russ Martin homers. Dodgers WPA=.20
DS: I can’t believe this. NO NO NO NO NO

DT: Martin hits it out!!! Oh for the love of your preferred celestial power!

DS: I have never seen anything like this. Was that on four pitches!?!?!?!?!?

Anderson hits a home run. Tie game. Dodger WPA=.638.
DS: Five pitches.

DT: OMG. Tell me this isn’t a dream.

DS: he said it….Unbelievable. I’ve never seen that in baseball…not at any level. this is why baseball rules over other sports. the game is never over until the absolute end.

DT: Gameday seems to be broke. It keeps on saying every Dodger hitter is hitting a home run. Major software bug or something.

DS: This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

DT: this has to go down in history as the “Marlon Anderson” game.

DT: OH MY GOD!!! I can’t believe I was watching the Daily Show and missed the first three homeruns.

DS: both teams don’t deserve to win. at the same time, both teams do.


Hoffman gets three outs and the game goes into extra innings.
DT: And Furcal…Just…Missed it.

DS: I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The Back to Back to Back to Back Game will be unforgettable, no matter who wins.

DT: When I said Marlon Anderson was redundant, I was obviously on crack.

There was no on else like him alive.
In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth,
highborn and powerful.

Beowulf appropriation.

DS: Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. Cause when the goin’ gets tough… the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!

Padres score a run in the to of the tenth off Aaron Sele on a double by Giles and a single by Bard (WPA on play of .358). Lead 10-9 with WPA of .800.
DS: THE BARD!!!!!!! Yeeeesssss!!!! I’d like to plant a kiss right on the top of that beautfiul bald head.

DT: oh well, better luck next ….

DS: How many runs do we need to be safe? 8?

DT: I don’t believe anyone has been retired in order tonight on either side.

DS: Who works the bottom half?

Rudy Seanez enters game for San Diego.
DS: Seanez? Really? Well, okay.

DT: At least the only have to get one back this time. And against Seanez…

DS: I would pitched Hoffman. He made just 11 pitches last inning.

Lofton walks. Padres WPA is .667.
DS: Nice walk, Rude. Looks like I picked a bad time to run out of Jim Beam.

Garciaparra hits a home run, worth .667 WPA. Dodgers win.

DS: No goddamn way!

DT: Guys, I don’t know you very well, but I think I want to hug all of you right now very very much. I’m both extremely happy, and not a little scared that the end of the world may be nigh.

DS: Wow. Geez, it all came down to Red Sox players.

DT: So I went upstairs for a blue gatorade and came back down to “Nomar Garciaparra homers (18) on a fly ball to left field. Kenny Lofton scores.” Even though it is but salt, sugar, and filtered water I think that it will have to be savored.

DS: So this is what being a Met fan for the last 14 years felt like.

DT: I saw my first game on July 3, 1955, at Ebbets Field. I was 7. I am in my 52nd season of being a Dodgers fan. I just told my daughter, who is 19, that tonight’s game may have been the greatest game in major league history.

DS: This seemed like a pretty crazy, fluky win, and certainly the Padres’ bats were just as hot as the Dodgers’. To hit homers like that is insane – you can’t do that in batting practice even. And, hey, in the future maybe the Padres’ starting pitcher can get through 6 and Cla can finish the game from there.

DT: This is the second-greatest moment in Dodgers history. And that may have been the greatest single baseball game of all time. It was certainly the greatest comeback of all time. Oh man.

DT: Well, good night all from the east coast! Or, maybe I have been sleeping for the past hour or so–just told my wife I had the strangest dream…

Although the biggest blow was Garciaparra’s, Marlon Anderson truly was the star of this game, with .773 WPA points. Here’s my final tally for each player:

Padres           Bat   Pitch   Field     WPA      LI
Meredith       0.000   0.305   0.000   0.305    2.13
Barfield       0.252   0.000   0.026   0.278    1.36
Bard           0.254   0.000   0.000   0.254    2.66
Piazza         0.147   0.000   0.031   0.178    1.67
Blum           0.136   0.000   0.032   0.168    1.41
Giles          0.124   0.000   0.001   0.125    0.96
Walker         0.068   0.000   0.000   0.068    1.48
None           0.057   0.000   0.000   0.057    1.33
Gonzalez       0.036   0.000   0.000   0.036    1.25
Branyan        0.032   0.000   0.003   0.035    1.32
Cameron        0.031   0.000  -0.007   0.025    1.52
Cust          -0.002   0.000   0.000  -0.002    0.06
Alexander     -0.008   0.000   0.000  -0.008    0.85
Linebrink      0.000  -0.018   0.000  -0.018    3.26
Sledge        -0.045   0.000   0.000  -0.045    1.94
Adkins         0.000  -0.072   0.000  -0.072    0.63
McAnulty      -0.102   0.000   0.000  -0.102    3.76
Peavy         -0.049  -0.127   0.000  -0.176    1.12
Roberts       -0.197   0.000   0.017  -0.180    1.48
Embree         0.000  -0.214   0.000  -0.214    2.42
Hoffman        0.000  -0.414   0.000  -0.414    2.00
Seanez         0.000  -0.800   0.000  -0.800    3.89
               0.736  -1.339   0.103  -0.500    1.62

Dodgers          Bat   Pitch   Field     WPA      LI
Anderson       0.773   0.000   0.000   0.773    1.49
Garciaparra    0.404   0.000   0.000   0.404    2.59
Beimel         0.000   0.132   0.000   0.132    2.10
Drew           0.106   0.000   0.014   0.120    1.53
Kent           0.112   0.000   0.007   0.118    1.05
Robles         0.089   0.000   0.000   0.089    4.28
Betemit        0.123   0.000  -0.042   0.081    1.64
Tomko          0.000   0.071   0.000   0.071    1.94
Lofton         0.021   0.000   0.013   0.034    1.91
Martin        -0.048   0.000   0.027  -0.021    1.21
Ethier        -0.046   0.000   0.000  -0.046    1.72
Lugo          -0.058   0.000   0.000  -0.058    2.14
Saenz         -0.089   0.000   0.000  -0.089    3.31
Furcal        -0.099   0.000  -0.037  -0.136    1.34
Saito          0.000  -0.144   0.000  -0.144    0.96
Penny         -0.052  -0.126   0.000  -0.178    0.91
Sele           0.000  -0.312   0.000  -0.312    2.67
Broxton        0.000  -0.338   0.000  -0.338    1.31
               1.236  -0.718  -0.019   0.500    1.47

Imagine what this game would have felt like without the safety net of the Wild Card?

References & Resources
The WPA graph at the beginning of this article is from Fangraphs. Fangraphs also keeps track of player WPA in each game. You might notice that my WPA calculations differ a bit from Fangraphs’. That’s because we use slightly different run tables. Also, I like to watch a game and give credit (or discredit) to fielders on certain plays. Still, our figures are very close.

Many thanks to Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts and Geoff Young of Ducksnorts for running terrific blogs. I hope they don’t mind that I borrowed their comments.

Dave Studeman was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.

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