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NLCS Game 5: America’s Team

In 2004, members of the Los Angeles Dodgers came on the field to congratulate the Cardinals players after losing to St. Louis in the National League Division Series. I’ve got a hunch that such a display of sportsmanship won’t be happening from either side in 2013. Wuz up with these Dodgers? Alright, they won game five 6-4 with a four-home run barrage to send the series to St. Louis. Give them credit. I certainly wasn’t ready to see this series that seemed to have so much potential end quietly in five. And after witnessing some more strange Dodger behavior, I’m wondering if just one hard slide or one up and in fastball might trigger an all-out brawl. Adrian Gonzalez always seemed like a classy ballplayer to me, who seemed to go about his business with a lethal swing and a humble, full respect for the game. So I was surprised when he went into the hand gesture thing Tuesday that prompted Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright to refer to this as “Mickey Mouse” stuff. Gonzalez wasn’t through, and after whacking a homer in the third inning Wednesday afternoon, he wagged his “Mickey Mouse: ears with another hand gesture on his way to the dugout. If this was the NFL, Gonzalez would get 15 yards for taunting.  Too bad the Cardinals can’t activate former great Bob Gibson to pitch to Gonzalez in game six. I’ve got a feeling that Mickey would end up with an ear ache from one of the no-nonsense Gibson heaters. Confidential note to Don Mattingly: If you are considering using Gonzalez to mentor Yasiel Puig on acting like a professional, you might want to search for another role model

Game 5 notes:

* Speaking of Mattingly, it appears the normally reserved Dodger skipper is surprisingly ready to join Gonzalez and Puig in the act now-think later category. After game five, Mattingly actually said this. “I think if you look at it now we’ve kind of become America’s team, because everyone wants to see a seventh game. Even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game.” Huh? So the Dodgers have now been anointed by Mattingly as America’s Team. Just to toss in some history here, Bob Ryan of ESPN is credited with designating the Dallas Cowboys as America’s Team while putting together a highlight show in 1978 after seeing people in every stadium wearing Cowboys gear. The name stuck when the CBS announcer used the phrase in a national 1979 Cowboys-St. Louis game. The Atlanta Braves are the only baseball club to try to assume the special title when they used it in 1987 as a marketing tool for their nationally televised games on WTBS. In polls, NFL Super Bowl winners Steelers, Packers and Patriots have all been recommended as America’s Team because of their dominant reigns. Dear Don: The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series title since 1988. Every other team in the West has done so since then. First become the National League’s Team, then let America decide.

* With Magic in the stands and Houdini on the mound, it should not be a surprise that the Dodgers made two Cardinals rallies disappear just like that. Zack Greinke loaded the bases with no outs in the first before dodging disaster with a strike out and a Yadier Molina double play. More trouble was ahead in the third after the Cardinals tied it, but further damage was avoided when the slow-footed Molina repeated his double play grounder. Greinke and Brian Wilson then combined to retire 16 in a row.

* Puig continues to make his presence known even when he is not a major contributor. His very relaxed move toward the ball after lost a fly even had teammates taking notice, and his stare downs with umpires over called strikes are wearing thin.

* A beach ball landed on the field in the seventh. A salute to the original Brian Wilson?

* The Dodgers enter Saturday’s game six with confidence and Kershaw, and an indication that their bats are starting to wake up. Gonzalez, despite his curious sideshow, could be the series-changer with his big-time bat. The homers by Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis mean that Dodgers throughout the lineup are ready to contribute. And Puig still remains that electrifying presence who can influence a game with one at bat. The storyline of whether the Cardinals will blow another 3-1 series lead is valid, but once the game begins, it’s doubtful that enters any player’s mind. The most important Cardinal on the field Saturday will be rookie starter Michael Wacha, who wasn’t there in 2012. The kid’s biggest obstacle might be to not think about the fact that all of America will be rooting against him as it embraces its new team.

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