LOS ANGELES – Vin was waving to the crowd again. Newk was whipping one across the plate again.
The ageless Sandy Koufax was in the box seats, the new Sandy Koufax was on the mound, and the once-brilliant Dodgers were those Dodgers again.
Welcome back, summer. Welcome home, hardball.
On an early October night that appropriately felt like a warm July afternoon, the Dodgers began their long-awaited postseason Friday with a raucous, rollicking flashback.
Remember when everyone thought they could be the best team in baseball history? Before everyone thought they were the worst team in baseball history? Well, after a few hours of brilliant hitting, sturdy pitching and serious snake crushing, everyone can feel free to jump back on the belief wagon.
To be more precise, the Dodgers opened the first round of the playoffs by punching the Arizona Diamondbacks right between their wide eyes in a 9-5 victory in front of a full house at Dodger Stadium.
"It was fun,'' said Cody Bellinger, and was it ever.
It was closer that it should have been, the Dodgers allowing a 7-1 lead to shrink to 7-4 after consecutive seventh-inning homers by Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis against Clayton Kershaw, whose seventh-inning playoff ERA as a starter is now 25.50. But the Dodgers countered with bullpen cleanup and Justin Turner's fifth RBI, and all was well.
It's only the first game of a best-of-five National League Division Series, but in the Dodgers' last 15 postseason series, the outcome of the first game mirrored the outcome of the series.
It's only nine innings, but this thing felt finished after one, the Dodgers rolling rattled kid pitcher Taijuan Walker for four runs in the first before he recorded an out, the big hit being a Turner three-run homer into a partying mass of fans in the left-field pavilion.
"It's just nice to jump on him early," said Corey Seager of Walker. "It's nice to win Game 1, get the momentum and move on from here."
It was only one night. But goodness, what a night, one that featured dancing fans, a flurry of waving blue towels, rattling cheers and Hollywood stars reading lines from their movies. When the video board showed Tom Hanks, he wagged his finger at the crowd and mouthed the words, "No crying in baseball."
That is usually good advice for Dodger fans in October, as the team has made 10 postseason appearances without a World Series championship, the longest such drought in history. But for once, those words were not needed.
All this, and Dodger fans throughout Los Angeles could actually watch them on television, the national networks taking over during the postseason for the mostly blacked-out SportsNet LA.
For those first-time viewers, that big guy making nifty plays at first base is Cody Bellinger, that little guy scoring two runs is Chris Taylor, and this is really how the team played for most of last summer.
The night began when Don Newcombe, the Dodgers' 91-year-old legend who practiced throwing a sponge ball for two weeks in anticipation of this moment, delivered a perfect first pitch from in front of home plate to his protege Jansen.
The charm continued in the middle innings when the video board showed Vin Scully sitting in the stands. He immediately stopped his conversation and stood and waved to a roaring crowd that has missed him terribly.
The Dodger fans have also missed this kind of baseball, the sort which pushed the team to a 52-9 stretch at one point during a regular season during which they were once on a pace to record the most wins in major-league history. Memories were quickly dimmed when, late in the season, this same team went 1-16, a stat that should scare because no club since 1900 has gone into such a nose dive and emerged as a World Series champion.
But these were the good Dodgers, right from the start, beginning a first inning that featured the same sort of offense that led them on this summer's amazing streak. It helped that they were facing a very nervous Walker, a kid making his first postseason start after admitting he can't even stand watching these sorts of games.
Taylor led off by lashing a full-count single. Seager drew a full-count walk. Then Turner drove a two-strike home run into the left-field pavilion, shaking the packed stadium down to its studs.
Up next, Bellinger, who drove another two-strike pitch up the middle for a single. Then Yasiel Puig scored him on a double to the center-field wall after a brilliant nine-pitch at-bat.
"It was exciting to hear the crowd roar in the first inning," said Bellinger.
It was trademark 2017 Dodgers excellence. Grinding plate appearances, unselfish swings, working the pitcher, moving the line, wearing out arms and whittling away at resolve.
"This is what we've talked about from this offseason, wanting to bring that trophy back to L.A. to fans who have been waiting a long time for it, it's the fifth year in a row for some of these guys, trying to do everything we can to make it happen," said Turner earlier this week. "It's about doing the little things."
Walker finished the inning and was then quickly pulled after allowing four runs on four hits in one 48-pitch inning his postseason debut. The Diamondbacks must now come back in Game 2 Saturday night with another pitcher with a bit of baggage.
Robbie Ray has stifled the Dodgers in his five starts against them this year with a 3-0 record, 2.27 ERA, 53 strikeouts and just 12 walks. But by taking the ball Saturday night against Rich Hill, he is essentially pitching on short rest, as he threw 34 pitches out of the bullpen in that wild-card victory.
"We made it here for a reason," said Ray. "We're not just limping our way in."
The Dodgers nearly had to limp their way out of Friday night, but survived, and Turner warned fans to get used to it.
"No lead is safe in playoffs, no team going to roll over and quit," said Turner. "It's going to be an emotional ride of ups and downs. If we limit our downs and ride our highs as much as possible, we've got a chance."
On a redemptive kind of evening, the city surely fell back in love with that chance.