The Padres evened up their all–Southern California NLDS with the Dodgers Wednesday night, winning an extremely entertaining Game 2 by the same scoreline they lost Game 1, 5-3. The game had everything a neutral fan could have asked for: bountiful dingers, a tight scoreline, visiting players egging on the crowd, and, most importantly, a dramatic bird moment.
But before we honk too much about the goose, we should set the stage. Clayton Kershaw started against his former teammate Yu Darvish, and though each pitcher surrendered three runs in five innings, they combined for 13 strikeouts and did some pretty disgusting things with the baseball. Jurickson Profar wound up smacking the go-ahead hit later in the game, though he was on the wrong end of the game's best highlight when he struck out on a 75-mph curve from Kershaw that bounced halfway between the grass and home plate. Profar striking out on an embarrassingly premature swing to Kershaw was especially funny, since the two got into a heated argument last year over a (perhaps illegally) late swing. This was a very rude pitch to sucker someone with.
Anyway, back to the bird. The goose, incorrectly identified as a duck by the Fox broadcast, settled into the shallow outfield when the Dodgers trailed by two runs and had just four outs left. Minutes after the goose landed, Gavin Lux singled into right field, summoning the tying run to the plate. Was the goose a good luck charm for the Dodgers, some sort of migratory spirit drawn to Dodger Stadium to bless the home team with goose magic? Yes, definitely. However, the Dodgers appear to have been oblivious to the goose's intentions, as the grounds crew snatched it up with a towel when Padres manager Bob Melvin brought in closer Josh Hader. Hader surrendered one walk but escaped trouble, and Hader retired the top of the order in the ninth to secure the win.
This bird is a greater white-fronted goose, a handsome species that migrates south from Canada and Alaska to make its winter home in the marshlands of central California. (Some geese, like presumably this one, migrate even further to Mexico's Sierra Madres.) You may be asking yourself the operative question here: "What marshlands?" As recently as the 1850s, the Central Valley was a thriving wetland ecosystem, with its seasonality defined by the flooding patterns of the great rivers discharging snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east. Industrial agriculture has supplanted the vast majority of central California's riparian forests, which, along with the epochal drought gripping California, means only 10 percent of California's wetlands remain intact. Migration is somewhat trickier now, though geese have suffered less acutely than ducks.
The greater white-fronted goose migrates at night, when the air is calmer and flying long distances is therefore more efficient. That means the goose probably was disoriented by the stadium's bright lights, and it also appeared to have some trouble with its balance. According to people who keep track of bird epidemiology, the 2022 avian flu season will be the worst the United States has faced in a very long time, with one expert telling the New York Times the 2022 bird flu influx will be "radically different than what we’ve seen before." Wild, migratory birds in particular have been identified as the prime vector of the disease. We don't know whether the bird was sick or what happened after it was shuffled into the bowels of the stadium—I emailed the Dodgers to ask, and I'll update this post if they respond—though Manny Machado noted its impaired condition. "That was pretty gnarly out there, huh?" Machado said. "He didn’t want to go anywhere. I think he was hurt when he landed, so I kind of didn’t like seeing that. I guess it was good luck for us." I hope the goose is OK!