It all came down to the final at-bat of the 161st game of the season, but the Dodgers were officially eliminated from playoff contention by none other than the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night. The Dodgers ended the season on a high note with a 5-1 victory Wednesday, highlighted by one last dominant pitching performance from Clayton Kershaw. With his performance Wednesday, Kershaw captured his second consecutive ERA title.
Here’s a look at how the final series of the season went down.
Adrian Gonzalez ended the season with a 15-game hitting streak and A.J. Ellis hit a dramatic home run that will go down in Dodgers lore. Hanley Ramirez and Luis Cruz each had a good series, but Mark Ellis will go down as the goat of the final game.
Adrian was 4-for-11 in the series and drove in the go-ahead run on Wednesday evening. After a slow start with the Dodgers, Gonzalez finished the season on a tear. During his 15-game hit streak, 8 were multi-hit games. Dodger fans should be excited for next season when we will get a full year of Adrian Gonzalez, simply one of the most professional hitters in the game.
A.J. Ellis went 1-for-4 in the first two games of the series, before giving way to Tim Federowicz on Wednesday. Ellis’ one hit was, without a doubt, the biggest of his career. With the Dodgers down 4-1 and fighting for their playoff lives Tuesday night, A.J. slugged his 13th homer of the year with a runner on to keep the Dodgers close and give them one final glimmer of hope. The Dodgers rally would come up short when Mark Ellis hit a weak fly ball to shallow center to end the game.
Mark was 2-for-11 in the series, and has been the consummate professional all year long. Ellis thrived in the two-hole early in the season until he was derailed by a freak leg injury. Ellis has handled the lead-off role admirably for most of the past month or so. Additionally, Ellis has provided gold glove caliber defense at second base all year long. However, Tuesday night, Mark got a bit over-zealous and was gunned down trying to extend a double into a triple.
Who knows what might have been.
Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-7 with a triple, a pair of runs scored, and a stolen base in the first two games of the series, before going 0-for-3 in the season finale Wednesday. The addition of Hanley Ramirez before the trade deadline gave the club a much-needed boost on offense. Hanley appears to have left any emotional baggage he may have had back in Miami and in the past. Same as with Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers’ fans should be excited for a full season of Hanley Ramirez next year. Hanley was good, but not great defensively, and the only question facing Hanley is whether or not he continues as a shortstop or moves back over to third base.
Luis Cruz finished the season going 2-for-11 with a key RBI ground-out in Tuesday night’s loss. Cruz came out of nowhere to solidify the left side of the Dodgers infield and delivered a ton of clutch hits along the way. Cruz has most certainly earned consideration for a starting spot next season. Cruz came up in July and appeared to be one of many more journeyman infielders the Dodgers would cycle through while dealing with injuries. However, midway through August, Cruz got hot and was one of the driving forces in the Dodgers offense.
Andre went 4-for-9 with a pair of a doubles in the series and hit his 20th home run of the year on Monday night. Staying healthy and controlling his emotions were two keys for Ethier coming into the year, and he did both of those very well. Ethier’s main struggles were against left-handed pitching. Ethier was among the league leaders in RBI for the first couple months of the season before he lost his protection in the lineup when Matt Kemp went down with a hamstring injury.
Matt Kemp has not been right since running into the outfield wall in Colorado. In the final series of the season, when he wanted to do the most he could, Kemp came up short, going 0-for-10. Kemp announced after Wednesday’s game that he will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. After one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history last year, Kemp was completely derailed by the injury bug. After playing in every single game the past two seasons, Kemp missed 56 games due to injury.
When your best player misses 1/3 of the season, good things can’t possibly happen.
Shane Victorino went 4-for-7 with two doubles and triple in the first two games of the series before going 0-for-4 to end the season Wednesday. Although Victorino solidified the Dodgers’ outfield defensively, he never was really able to get it going and provide the offensive spark the Dodgers needed at the top of their lineup. By midway through September Victorino was either hitting behind Mark Ellis or batting further down in the order. Perhaps the biggest question facing the Dodgers this off-season will be whether or not to bring the Flyin’ Hawaiian back.
STARTING PITCHING: B-
Clayton Kershaw dominated the Giants for one last start, but it was a day too late, as the Dodgers were eliminated from playoff contention the night before Kershaw pitched. Aaron Harang made a valiant effort and pitched a solid start to keep the Dodgers in the game. Chris Capuano got hit hard early in his start, and the Dodgers were unable to recover.
Harang went 6.0 innings Monday night giving up only one run and leaving with a 2-1 lead. Harang is not flashy, but he managed to get the job done for the Dodgers and can always be counted on for 5-6 solid innings of work. Harang pitched 179.2 innings this year, his most since 2008 with Cincinnati.
Chris Capuano bruised his shoulder in his last start, whether or not it affected him, who knows. Capuano gave up early home runs to Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias, and left after only 3.0 innings of work. Capuano was one of the brightest surprises for the Dodgers in the first half of the season going 9-4 with a sub 3.00 ERA. However, Capuano petered out down the stretch, going only 1-4 in his final 8 starts of the season. Capuano’s 196.1 innings of work were his most since he pitched 200 innings for Milwaukee back in 2006.
Although the final game of the season meant nothing, Clayton Kershaw had no plans on taking a seat. Kershaw pitched 8.0 brilliant innings, striking out 8 Giants, holding San Francisco to only one run, and picking up his 14th win of the season. Kershaw lowered his ERA to a league-best 2.53. Clayton could possibly finish behind R.A. Dickey in the vote for the Cy Young Award, but much like last season, Kershaw showed Dodger fans that the sky is the limit for him, and left no doubt that he is among the league’s elite pitchers.
The Dodgers bullpen was among the league’s best heading down the stretch, they faltered a bit against the Giants, but San Francisco’s hitting has been more timely than anyone’s lately. With the Dodgers leading 2-1 Monday night, Ronald Belisario would come in to pitch a scoreless 7th inning. Kenley Jansen would enter the game in the 8th, only to surrender game-tying RBI single to Marco Scutaro. Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth inning and thanks to walk-off infield single from Elian Herrera, League collected his second win of the season with the Dodgers.
With the Dodgers down 2-1 to the Giants on Tuesday night, Jamey Wright gave up a 2-run double to Scutaro, again. This time he gave the Giants a 4-1 lead. Shawn Tolleson would join Belisario, Jansen, and League to shut down the Giants for the next four innings, but the ride would come to an end as the Dodgers were unable to erase the deficit.
After Clayton Kershaw‘s brilliance on Wednesday, Kenley Jansen came in to pitch the last inning of the season, striking out the final two batters he faced. If the Dodgers were to keep Brandon League, they would surely have one of the most devastating 7th-8th-9th inning combos in the game. Belisario and Jansen have both been lights out for the Dodgers. Since returning from his heart ailment, Jansen has surrendered only one run in 9.1 innings of work.
Belisario gave up only four runs in 17 appearances since September 1.
Although the season ended disappointingly, it did so in thrilling fashion. After re-hauling the roster at the trade deadline, the Dodgers looked to finally be putting it together, as they won 9 of their final 12 games. Not only did their best player, Matt Kemp, miss significant playing time, their top two pitchers dealt with injuries as well. Dodger fans have to be excited to see what this team can do in 2013 with a full off-season to prepare and get healthy. 162 games later and the Dodgers finished 86-76, eight games back of the Giants, whom they went 8-10 against. In addition to their new players, the Dodgers received new ownership who proved they are willing to spend and will do what it takes to put a winning team on the field. Although 2012 ended on sour note, one can only be excited and hopeful for 2013!