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Ball simply doesn't bounce LA's way

Ball simply doesn't bounce LA's way

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had seen this before. From themselves.

A bloop here, a flare there and dinks all around. The Dodgers earned a Wild Card berth this season with a constant stream of base hits, rarely relying on a burst of long balls. That's exactly the policy the Mets embraced in clinching the National League Division Series on Saturday, discarding their usual power game for situational ball and slap hitting -- lots of it.

"It's tough to handle," Jeff Kent said. "There was no fortune on our side. You shake your head at it and wonder why."

In the eventual game-winning rally against reliever Jonathan Broxton in the sixth inning, the Mets hit just one ball hard. That hit came off the bat of Shawn Green, who doubled to the gap in right and made the sellout crowd of 56,293 recall what they've been missing since he was traded away.

Three more hits followed Green's smash, though they can be considered "hits" only as far as the box score is concerned.

Jose Reyes fouled off three pitches before looping a shallow liner just past the second-base bag. Paul Lo Duca then shot a short flare just over the head of shortstop Rafael Furcal. Carlos Beltran followed with another well-placed blooper over the Dodgers infielder.

All three came off sliders that Broxton said were not mistakes. All three pitches, Broxton said, broke bats. Yet all three drove in runs that helped the Mets take control of the series clincher.

"The kid was not hit that hard," manager Grady Little said of his young setup man.

Said Broxton: "The cards didn't fall in our favor. You can't get mad at that."

After witnessing future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux get blitzed with opposite-field flares in the first, what transpired in the later innings should have been no surprise.

Maddux gave up four straight singles in the opening frame, which led to three runs for the Mets. The maddening part was that one run came on a David Wright fister into shallow left, and the other two scored on opposite-field flares from Cliff Floyd and Green, who were just trying to stay alive while facing 0-2 counts.

"An 0-2 count is one of the best times to throw them a strike," Maddux said. "When a team beats you the other way, you tip your hat.

"It's kind of how it goes sometimes. Sometimes you win games you shouldn't; sometimes you lose games you should have won."

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That's a fact of baseball. On occasion, poorly-hit balls pace a team to victory. Other times, hard smashes can send a club to defeat. Or, it might just work out that jam jobs end up being caught and line drives ultimately sail over the fence.

The Dodgers just got stuck in a game that wasn't kind to them, and it ended up putting a halt to their season.

"Baseball happened tonight, and they got the 'W,'" Marlon Anderson said.

Still, many in the clubhouse couldn't believe the way the Mets were able to string together a victory on Saturday.

"There were Texas leaguers falling in a way I've never seen before," Kent said. "They were just falling in; you can't defense that."

What made those bloops all the more frustrating is that the Dodgers drove the ball hard all night. They pounded out 16 hits, but couldn't get the big one to fall into a gap or skip past any gloves.

Nomar Garciaparra, appearing in the fifth as a pinch-hitter, just missed out on his Kirk Gibson moment when his hard smash up the middle was stabbed by Mets pitcher Chad Bradford with the bases loaded. An inning earlier, rookie Andre Ethier shot a ball on a rope back to reliever Darren Oliver, who tossed to third for an inning-ending double play, cutting short what was already a three-run rally.

The Mets had no such bad luck. Balls seemed to find holes whenever the NL East champions had men on base. Even Lo Duca's insurance RBI in the eighth was a bloop into right.

It was a tough way to end the season for a club that had the makings of a team of destiny. It's a label that could have easily been attached to the Dodgers, considering their four-homer comeback against the Padres and their 17-1 run to get back in the playoff race in early August.

As many Dodgers realized while the Mets were dinking and dunking their way to victory, destiny no longer seemed to be on their side.

"The way I look at it, if the balls land in a normal spot, they are outs," Kenny Lofton said. "But if they fall in, then it wasn't meant to be."

Greg Wagner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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