For Joe Torre, clad in his current garb of Dodger Blue, Sunday night likely felt like a nightmarish flashback.
With his team ahead 6-2 on his former New York Yankees going into the top of the 9th inning and star closer Jonathan Broxton on the mound, Torre may have felt good about the game on the surface. But the man who witnessed so many instances of improbable Yankee magic over his time at the helm of the Bronx Bombers had to know — at least in the repressed depths of his subconscious — that no lead is safe when men in pinstripes populate the opposing dugout.
For the Yankees, the night played out much like some of the more dramatic scenarios from the Joe Torre era. Facing near-certain defeat, New York beat down the Dodgers' closer, demonstrating their tenacious skill and as a result, once again highlighting the difference between Mariano Rivera and every other closer on the face of the planet.
Alex Rodriguez continued to stuff Joe Torre's book down his throat, beginning the rally with a single. And when Robinson Cano furthered his raucous tear, doubling in Rodriguez to make the game 6-3, it was clear that something was brewing.
But it was when Chad Huffman (2) and Colin Curtis (1) contributed three RBIs back-to back between them to tie the game that the recognition and remembrance cracked through the cement of Torre's stoic exterior.
Broxton at age 26 cannot compare to Rivera at age 40. The Dodgers' lineup lacks a single player with the intangible abilities of Derek Jeter or Cano. And there is a longstanding reason why, as great as the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers franchise has been throughout history, they have always played second fiddle to the New York Yankees in every measurable way. Joe Torre has been around baseball for many years so he understands this balance. But as the current Dodgers' manager, on Sunday he was forced to accept his current position in the lineage of the rivalry.
The series between the historical rivals played out like a Hollywood script. Two of the most beloved Yankees in history facing their old team for the first time together. A brutal pitchers duel in the first game won by a mammoth home run smashed by Rodriguez; a player who very apparently had a poignant point to make going into the series against his former manger.
Then there was the solid win by the Yankees' old coaching master in the second game of the series, as the teams slugged it out like it was 1955 with the Dodgers hammering home their one victory of the series, erupting for nine runs to crush the Yanks and A.J. Burnett by a 5 run margin.
And finally there were the extra-inning dramatics of Sunday night, culminating with Cano's Bronx Bomb to secure the series and provide yet another reminder that the ethos originally installed by the current Dodgers' manager has returned to New York in the form of his protege.
In the end, the finale was pure Yankee poetry. The new crop of youngster tying the game, pulling the team from the throes of defeat. Cano furthered his ascension into the Yankees universal stratosphere by ripping a Ruthian blast the opposite way (to left center) off left-hander George Sherrill (his first hit in 12 at bats against the former Baltimore closer).
And Rivera with another two innings of scoreless baseball (lowering his era to 0.92 and his WHIP to 0.61), finalizing the win and reminding the baseball world once again that while Thigpens, Broxtons and Papelbons come and go, Mariano Rivera operates on another plane of existence.