They lost the first game of the four to Bob Buhl, who has exerted a mysterious domination over Brooklyn all season, beating them six straight times. But even Buhl, with a cushion of six runs going into the eighth inning by virtue of home runs by Adcock and Aaron and Mathews, couldn't hold the Dodgers alone and they almost got away. They knocked him out in that inning as Furillo and Hodges drove in three runs and then almost won it in the ninth with two more on Reese's two-out homer. The Braves were happy to get that one under their belts; they were suddenly aware this was not the same Brooklyn team they had handled so easily in the West three weeks before.
The pitching the next night in Jersey City was wonderful to behold; Gene Conley and Dave Jolly threw a six-hitter at the Dodgers, and Erskine, with help in the ninth from Labine, stopped the Braves on seven. But it was Robinson who took matters into his own hands. First he hit a two-run homer in the second inning—only to have the Braves tie it up with a pair of their own by Adcock and Mathews. So, with one out in the last of the ninth, Robinson slammed a ball 410 feet to the fence in deepest center field to score Reese with the winning run.
If the second game was a tough one to lose, the third was even more so for Lew Burdette. While the entire Brooklyn bench, including Alston, was yelling "spitter!" this tough, businesslike right-hander with one of the heaviest assortment of pitches in all baseball—and this does not necessarily include the spitter—ignored them and proceeded to mow the Dodgers down. But he slipped once when Snider homered in the fourth inning and even though the Braves tied it up against a truly magnificent old Sal Maglie with an unearned run in the seventh, you somehow got the feeling that Milwaukee wasn't going to get another if the two teams played all night. Labine, working quick and strong in relief once more, was untouchable, and young Craig was heating up down in the bullpen just in case. Then it happened. In the eighth Robinson singled, went to second on an error and to third as Hodges sacrificed. Dale Mitchell, the veteran Cleveland outfielder who arrived in town the day before, made his first appearance as a Dodger and apparently caught the spark too. Pinch-hitting for Labine, he bounced a high hopper down to third and beat it out as the ubiquitous Robinson scooted in to score the winning run.
By the finale on Thursday it was apparent that Milwaukee was through—at least for this series—and the period of mourning for the poor old Dodgers had been a sheer waste of everybody's time. Newcombe simply reared back and fogged his fast ball past the Braves all afternoon, shutting them out on four hits while the Dodgers were tagging Ray Crone for nine. Included were home runs by Furillo and Campanella, and the Dodgers won 3-0.
Just how crucial the series had really been was a matter of individual opinion. The Braves, and you could understand their viewpoint, shrugged it off, pointed to their name still at the top of the standings and went on about their business. The Dodgers, and you could understand their reaction too, whooped it up, pounded their chests—and then for a while relaxed maybe just a little too much as the Cardinals came into town.
It was, however, clearly a time to stop and evaluate. And, looking at the Dodgers, certain doubts immediately came to mind. The Braves are forced to play 15 of their last 22 games on the road, and the Redlegs play 16 of their last 21 away. Could they possibly hold off the revived Brooks, who have all the best of the end-of-the-season schedule with 20 of their last 24 games at home, 16 of these against second-division opposition? On the other side, might those premature pallbearers have been at least partially right when they said the Dodgers were too old? Would the Dodgers be able to keep playing the brand of ball they had played against Milwaukee through that last, punishing eight-week drive for the big money?
No one was at all sure. All they knew after last week was that the old Bums could still handle the big occasion and give a lesson in playing under pressure to anyone, including the Braves.
"I would say," said Robinson after the final game, "that there is nothing wrong with that Milwaukee club except this is all new to them and they have begun to taste that pennant. And it looks like they are beginning to choke up on it a little too.
"Now, you take us," he added. "This is old stuff to the Dodgers."