LOS ANGELES – The honest truth is, according to his reputed friends in the clubhouse, Adrian Gonzalez does resemble a certain well-known celluloid rodent.
“He has those kinda big ears,” Jerry Hairston said.
Uh-huh. No. Don’t.
“He looks like him,” Hairston insisted. “He does. We were so glad when they called him Mickey Mouse. Now we all do.”
Well, that’s not how that was supposed to work out at all. Not when a couple of NLCS games back Gonzalez was accused by the St. Louis Cardinals of “Mickey Mouse” tactics, for gloating or taunting or gesturing or chirping or whatever it was that irked the Cardinals that day.
See you in St. Louis. Why? Because the Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 5.
Whatever came over Gonzalez on Wednesday afternoon brought on one of the most ostentatious bat flips of his career. And summoned the notion to pantomime those Mickey Mouse ears, because a Cardinals pitcher – Adam Wainwright – had accused him of being just that childish, and because Gonzalez’s teammates have adopted that as his unofficial nickname, and maybe because it looked fun to be so goofy.
Gonzalez plays the game with reserved competency ordinarily. But, one supposed, Gonzalez and the rest of the Dodgers had little to lose by lightening up, by reveling in whatever it was the Cardinals think of them.
Hell, the Dodgers had Ron Burgundy read the lineup card pregame, and Mr. Chow ("The Hangover" guy) stand on the dugout in the early innings shrieking at people to cheer. What’s a little Disney in the day?
They’d defeated the Cardinals 6-4 at a Dodger Stadium with several hundred empty seats in it. They’d hit four home runs, two by Gonzalez, the first with great ceremony. They’d run the NLCS to a Game 6 on Friday in St. Louis, and gotten the ball to Clayton Kershaw, which is all they had to play for in Game 5, and then they’d see if they didn’t have a few more outbursts in them. Or runs. Or something.
Hanley Ramirez irately dumped a couple Gatorade buckets in the dugout, and Yasiel Puig seemed as though he would stand in the batter’s box until plate umpire Ted Barrett changed his strike-three call, forever if it took that long, or maybe he just didn’t want to go back and wade through the dugout, like everybody was a little jumpy, a little edgy, a little unwilling to be done in five.
“I hope so,” said A.J. Ellis, who hit a hanging splitter in the seventh inning for the third of those four home runs. “I hope there was an edge today. We were a little flat yesterday, honestly.”
[Photos: Dodgers vs. Cardinals in NLCS]
The Cardinals had pitched them into that mess, and the Dodgers had hit themselves into it, and so the best the Dodgers could hope for was one more game. Kershaw off in the distance. Game 7 after that. In the meantime, you suppose, there’s so little to do but show up, and laugh at yourself, and watch Zack Greinke go seven strong, and try to put the bat barrel on something. The Dodgers hadn’t hit a home run since the division series, and on Wednesday they tied the club’s postseason record for home runs in a game.
Along came Gonzalez, one of the Boston Red Sox castoffs who’d been to the postseason once before in a decade-long career. While Ramirez plays to protect his ribs and is not near the offensive player he was before Joe Kelly’s fastball, and Andre Ethier hobbles on a sore ankle, the lineup turns to Gonzalez. He, in turn, gives it a bat flip with hang time and a grin and some big, round ears. He homered in the third to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead and in the eighth for a 6-2 lead. On the latter, he dropped his bat, looked straight ahead, did not get a glare from Yadier Molina, and did not go full Mickey on the dugout.
“I was just having fun with the comment that was made earlier [in the series],” he said. “Nothing against them or anything.”
No. Course not.
“I’m going to retire them,” he said of the ears, though his teammates may think that impossible without a scalpel.
Beside him, Carl Crawford, who’d homered in the fifth inning, protested.“Once you start it, you’ve got to keep going,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way, and they’re going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it, Adrian.”
Said Gonzalez: “Hey, if Carl wants them, it’s for him, not for anybody else.”
This is how the Dodgers began the climb from down 3-1 in the series. And this is how the Cardinals reached for the kill shot, up 3-1. A year ago, ahead by the same margin in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants, they’d lost the next three, by a cumulative score of 20-1. This, they'd believe, is not the start of that.
“Right now,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had said, pregame, “just keep playing the game.”
It’ll take one more. At least one more.
Hairston, sticking by his separated-at-birth story, is not on the postseason roster. So he watches. And he laughs. Bats fly, and ears appear, and the Dodgers hang around for one more. At the end of the day, the Dodgers had grinded, they’d pitched, and they’d gotten a few fat pitches to hit. He’d loved the passion and been unscathed by the Gatorade bucket. They’d all go to St. Louis and try again.
“You know,” he said, “I like to be entertained. And I was.”