© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers were all set for a Hollywood finish. The Brewers penned a last-minute rewrite.
J.J. Hardy lived a week's worth of drama in the span of three innings on Saturday, when he hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth, made an error in the ninth that helped the Dodgers tie it, then atoned with a game-winning single in the 10th for a thrilling 4-3 win at Dodger Stadium.
Hardy was not the only star. Left fielder Gabe Kapler went into the stands for one of the best catches you'll ever see in the eighth, and center fielder Mike Cameron, who made a pair of diving grabs of his own, may have deflected a would-be homer in the bottom of the 10th. Relievers Salomon Torres (6-3) and David Riske (second save) each escaped rallies to help the Brewers gain a game on the National League Central-leading Cubs, who lost hours earlier.
To borrow the favorite postgame phrase of Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker -- a guy who knows a thing or two about showbiz -- how about that one, folks?
"The energy here is unbelievable," said Kapler, the L.A. native who leaped into the left-field seats in the seventh inning to rob Russell Martin of a home run. "I mean, it was loud out there. There was some heightened sensitivity on the field and in the dugout and in the crowd. That's a tremendous game to get a win in."
"The difference between being a good team and a great team," added Ryan Braun, who played for the first time in a week, "is finding ways to win games like this."
The Dodgers were scoreless from the second through the eighth, but kept Brewers manager Ned Yost on the top step throughout the final two frames. Torres surrendered a ninth-inning sacrifice fly to Manny Ramirez after Hardy's error the tied the game at 3, but he escaped a bases-loaded jam. Hardy put the Brewers back ahead in the 10th, then watched Riske walk a similar tightrope.
With a runner at first and one out, Riske tracked a long fly ball off the bat of Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, whose two-run home run in the first marked the only damage in an otherwise stellar start by Dave Bush.
Cameron drifted back. And back.
"I thought it was going to be just a fly ball to center field," said Riske, who was after his first save since Opening Day. "I couldn't believe it kept carrying."
Cameron leaped at the wall and had a chance for another dramatic catch. He said later that he deflected what would have been a home run and caused the baseball to glance high off the wall, leaving Ethier with a 399-foot single.
Cameron was sure that Ethier's drive would have gone out, and Yost was among those who agreed. The initial replays made it difficult to tell.
"Some days you have an opportunity to make a play, and today was one of those plays. A lot of that has to do with getting there at the right time. ... What a good win for us."
-- Gabe Kapler
"I think that ball was over the fence, wasn't it?" Yost said. "There were just a myriad of awesome defensive plays in that game."
Kemp stayed near first base, expecting to tag up and move to second on a long out. That meant the tying run was at second base instead of third when Jeff Kent lined out to center field. Riske then struck out Ramirez to end the game.
"You've got two real good contending teams and nobody is going to give up," Yost said. "That's how these games play out. They're really ultra-exciting."
Hardy had a more simple take on the Brewers' night in general and his in particular.
"Thank God," he said.
The loss went to Jonathan Broxton (3-4), who retired the first two Brewers he faced in the 10th before a costly two-out walk to Ray Durham, who was hitless in his first four at-bats.
Durham stole second base -- his first swipe since a trade from San Francisco to Milwaukee last month -- and scored when Hardy's hit dropped in front of Ethier in right field.
"I wasn't too happy after the error," Hardy said. "It was a good job by Salomon to get out of that [ninth] inning to give us another chance to get up there and score another run."
L.A.'s ninth-inning rally spoiled an inspired start by Bush, who was briefly in line for the win thanks to Hardy and the Brewers' defense. The best may have belonged to Kapler, who almost made a similar play on Friday night on Martin's solo homer.
This time Kapler drifted toward the corner and tumbled over a short wall and into the seats. He emerged with the ball and the second out of the inning.
"Some days you have an opportunity to make a play, and today was one of those plays," Kapler said. "A lot of that has to do with getting there at the right time. ... What a good win for us."
Kapler's catch set up Hardy for a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the eighth off Dodgers left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo. Eric Gagne was booed in his return to Los Angeles, but pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth thanks in part to one of Cameron's highlight-reel catches. The Brewers faltered in the ninth.
Left-handed reliever Brian Shouse started the inning for Milwaukee to face lefty-swinging Andre Ethier, and walked him. Enter Torres, who got the ground ball he wanted from Kent but not the result, as a potential double-play grounder trickled under Hardy's glove and left runners at the corners for Ramirez, who hit a game-tying sacrifice fly to right field.
Hardy could have been spooked by Ethier, who was running on the pitch to Ramirez.
"I was trying to be quick," Hardy said. "I just kind of get 'out of it' a little when I make an error. I'm in this twilight zone. I don't know what I'm thinking. It was good to get the opportunity to hit."
"He never makes that mistake," Yost said. "He made up for it the next inning with the big base hit to win the ballgame."
For a few moments, it appeared the Brewers might add another, unwelcome, layer of drama. After Torres threw 19 pitches in the ninth, television cameras showed him heading into the clubhouse with a member of the team's training staff. But Torres later told one of the club's broadcaster that he was fine.