Six walk-off hits—four of which have been long balls.
That’s what Andre Ethier has done this season for the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.
The six walk-off winners are an all-time high for a single player in the divisional era. In fact, he has the most walk-off hits in a single season since 1974, and his four walk-off homers are also the most since ’74.
Justin Morneau was the last player to hit three walk-off homers in a season, doing so in ’07.
Consider that David Ortiz had five walk-off hits in ’06 and was considered to be the most clutch hitter in baseball at the time. Ethier has nine since the beginning of ’08, the most in the Majors over that time.
With one swing of the bat last night, not only did he lift the Boys in Blue to a 5-4, 13-inning victory, he also threw his name into the storied history of Dodgers baseball.
He became the first Dodger to hit 30-plus homers since Adrian Beltre slugged 48 in ’04; he is about to become the first Dodger to crack 100 RBI since J.D. Drew turned the trick in ’06.
Of those 30 homers, 21 have come at Dodger Stadium—the most ever by a left-handed hitter in the 40-plus-year history of the stadium.
Vin Scully dubbed him “Mr. Miracle” after the game winner, and the Hall of Fame announcer hit it right on the button.
Three of Ethier’s four game-ending home runs have come in the 12th inning or later.
Three of those six game-winners have brought his team from behind in the inning to pull out the victory.
That’s why Mr. Miracle should be the National League MVP.
Well...if there wasn’t that large human being nicknamed “The Machine” who resides in the NL Central.
Take away the three games in which he singlehandedly brought the team from behind to win, and remove his game-winning homers from those contests.
Because of DirecTV and the ridiculous restrictions they throw on certain games, I was forced to watch the game last night on my computer through my subscription to MLB.TV.
There was a pitching change made after a Russell Martin out, and I turned to the television while the broadcast was thrown to commercial.
My attention was drawn back to the computer by the sweet sounds of Vin Scully's voice tickling my eardrums, and almost before I could look, Ethier took a hack at the first delivery—but the comp froze as he completed the swing.
All I saw was the picturesque image of Ethier in his follow-through, yet I knew the ball had left the yard.
He has done this so many times already this season that I didn't even have to see the footage to know what happened next—because I have seen this movie before.
"As Yogi [Berra] would say, 'It's déjà vu all over again,'” manager Joe Torre said.
"You've seen him do it, you want to visualize it. And when he does it, it's just surreal."
Once the shot unfroze, I saw Ethier rounding the bases with the smile of a little kid in a candy store—pure jubilation as he met his fellow teammates at home plate for the requisite beatdown on that night's hero.
The smooth-swinging lefty had drilled the first pitch from Phil Dumatrait into the right field pavilion to bring an end to the four-hour and two-minute ball game.
Dumatrait even thought he threw a good pitch, but Ethier was just one step ahead and jumped all over it.
"I went two-seam in and it was just above the knees and maybe even in a little bit, and he just dropped the head [of the bat] a little bit," Dumatrait said.
Additionally, the home run notched the Dodgers 701 runs in the ’09 campaign—already one run more than the team scored in the entire ’08 regular season.
Now, Los Angeles is at a season-high 28 games above-.500, and along with a Colorado loss to San Francisco, the Dodgers’ lead is back to five games in the NL West.
The last time the Dodgers were 28 games above the break-even point was in ’88 with two days left in the season. Of course, Tommy Lasorda and the boys went on to win the World Series that magical season.
The magic number in ‘09, thanks to Mr. Miracle, is now down to just 10.
Ethier has had an enormous impact, not only on the closest divisional race in baseball, but also on the best team in the National League—and he is the most valuable player to his team’s success.
Sure, some will argue that with Manny Ramirez hitting behind him his numbers are skewed due to him seeing better pitches with protection in the order.
But so what?
He still has to hit the pitches he sees and do something special with them.
Albert Pujols has had Matt Holliday hitting behind him since St. Louis acquired the outfielder from Oakland, but that doesn’t diminish the second-half numbers accumulated by The Machine.
Ethier has amassed the kind of numbers that put him in the top rung of sluggers around the league, batting .283 with 30 home runs and 98 RBI for the Senior Circuit’s best team.
While his numbers don’t stack up as highly as “The Machine” and his dominant stat line, Ethier’s have brought more value to his team in the greater scheme of things.
Don’t get me wrong—Pujols will no doubt be named the MVP this season.
But Ethier is doing his best to give the big guy a run for his money.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers.