This past weekend, the Dodgers made history when Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith became the first MLB rookies of a team to hit three consecutive walk-off home runs. It was the kind of rare magic that shapes the identity of a championship contender, and should the Dodgers win it all this year, every account of the season will center on those three round-trippers.
10 whole years ago, Dodger walk-offs came almost single-handedly from one man: Andre Ethier. It started with an extra-innings heroic against the San Diego Padres on May 2. That was just the first of six on the season. In the early goings of June that year, he managed two consecutive walk-off hits of his own a full decade before the 2019 rookies dominated this June’s highlight reels.
The first was on June 5, against much tougher opposition than San Diego. The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies were in town. Having knocked out the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS, the series carried the weight of a potential NLCS rematch. Things didn’t start well, as an error helped the Phillies take a 3-0 lead in the early innings. Veteran starter Jamie Moyer held the Dodgers in check for a 3-2 lead through seven frames.
However, there was a chance in the bottom of the ninth. In came closer Brad Lidge, who converted every single regular and postseason save opportunity for Philadelphia in 2008 for a “perfect season.” In 2009, however, Lidge was coming back down to earth, with four blown saves, two losses and an unsightly ERA.
Video of Andre Ethier, the Walk-Off King
It didn’t start promisingly, as Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson were dispatched. Down to their last out, the Dodgers’ life was extended by a Casey Blake single. James Loney worked the count full, drawing a walk. Russell Martin loaded the bases thanks to an error.
It was almost like it was predetermined. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded. The archetypal test for Captain Clutch. He didn’t hesitate, drilling the first pitch for a game-winning double. A 3-2 defeat instead became an incredible 4-3 win.
Yet that was just a warm-up for what happened the next night on June 6. It was another low-scoring affair, with the Phillies carrying a 2-1 lead into the ninth. Lidge was summoned once again, hoping to get on track after a blown save and loss the night before. He wouldn’t lose…but he blew his sixth save of the year when Furcal took him deep.
It was on to extras, with Jonathon Broxton locking down the 10th and Cory Wade cruising through the 11th and 12th. In the bottom of the 12th, It looked like the marathon would continue when Chad Durbin retired Juan Pierre and Hudson. Of course, two outs never mattered to Andre Ethier. Working the count full, he rocketed a fly ball to centerfield. Shane Victorino could only fruitlessly leap as it cleared the fence for a home run.
Two games, two walk-off hits of different varieties. Nothing can top what we just saw our rookies do this past weekend. But 10 years ago, Andre Ethier showed he could do almost the exact same on his own.