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Sarah's Take: Lima Time is great
10/10/2004 7:21 PM ET
For the first time since 1988, the Dodgers are victorious in the playoffs. Emotional Jose Lima energized the crowd while baffling the St. Louis Cardinals and pitching a shutout. Steve Finley had a crucial two-run double, and Shawn Green had two solo home runs.

Unlike the first two games of the series, the large crowd was cheering for the Dodgers. Dodger blue calmed the players and seemed to help the Dodgers to focus on the task. The blue color seemed to put the hot-hitting Cardinals to sleep.

From the start, the crowd was into the game. The Dodgers hadn't played a playoff game in Los Angeles since 1996, and their last two playoff appearances didn't end in front of the hometown crowd. With 53 come-from-behind victories during the regular season, most Dodgers fans have fallen in love with this team. In contrast to the past few years, when the Dodgers didn't shown much spirit resulting in dull games with the fans rarely involved, this year the Dodgers have played thrilling games, making the fans want to be loud and involved. Watching the Dodgers struggle and overcome their shortcomings made the fans realize the club had challenges, just as they do. In years past, the fans couldn't tell if the Dodgers wanted to win, but this year no one questions the Dodgers' desire.

The importance of the fans, collectively referred to as the 10th man, is immeasurable. In my opinion, it's huge. When the Dodgers know the fans support them, they have confidence. The roar of the crowd can make the players' adrenaline flow and help the players accomplish something special. A loud hometown crowd unnerves the visiting team. A nervous or depressed visiting team is more likely to make pitching mistakes and fielding errors and to struggle offensively. A party-type atmosphere relaxes the hometown team and makes the players enjoy playing the game.

If anyone told us in March that Lima would pitch a shutout during the playoffs, almost every Dodgers fan would think the statement was ridiculous. Lima was a non-roster invitee to Vero Beach, Fla. A year away from pitching in an independent league, Lima earned a spot on the roster as a reliever. Doing wonderfully out of the bullpen, Lima became a starter after the Dodgers suffered injuries in their starting rotation. After a few sub-par performances, Lima became a solid starter, and the best Dodgers starter in September.

Fans love watching Lima. He does everything with such passion. He has dedicated himself to the Dodgers' effort and the community. Because he has done much to help the disadvantaged, he is the Dodgers' Roberto Clemente Award candidate. When he isn't pitching, he is the biggest Dodgers cheerleader. The flamboyant pitcher will do anything to encourage his teammates, including kissing bats and doing fancy handshakes.

Lima started the most important game of the season on Saturday and delivered exactly what the Dodgers needed. He kept the Cardinals off-balance by changing speeds expertly. Working the entire strike zone, except the middle, Lima never had the Cardinals hit the ball hard. With every fist pump and point to the sky, the Cardinals were more annoyed as the fans became louder and more excited.

Steve Finley delivered with a two-run double. Shawn Green, who is quiet-spoken and laid-back, fed off the excitement generated by the noisy crowd to blast two solo home runs.

"Lima Time" turned the nervousness and pressure surrounding the series into excitement. I hope that Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver can follow the example set by Lima.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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