Pitching the day after the Dodgers were officially eliminated from the postseason, Clayton Kershaw does what he always does: take the ball, and wipe the floor with his opposition.
Playoffs or not, nothing was going to stop the reigning Cy Young Award winner.
Kershaw put the punctuation on another terrific season by holding the Giants down to one run over eight innings, and the Dodgers took over late to get the win, 5-1. The final tally is a second place finish in the NL West at 86-76, eight games behind the Giants. Playoff-wise, they were only two games in back of the Cardinals.
Playing in a virtually meaningless game since the Giants already knew they'd be playing the Reds in the NLDS, Don Mattingly and Bruce Bochy both chose to start the game with mostly a regular lineup, and a couple of stud pitchers in Kershaw and Ryan Vogelsong. Through three innings, nobody even reached base.
In the fourth, the Giants scored their first and only run of the game. Marco Scutaro singled with one out, and went to third on Pablo Sandoval's double. That damn Buster Posey burned the Dodgers again with an RBI groundout to make it 1-0. Hunter Pence struck out for the last out.
The Dodgers did break up the perfect game by Vogelsong when Andre Ethier walked with one out in the fourth. It took until the fifth for them to score to tie the game. With two outs, Luis Cruz reached on an error by Scutaro at second. Tim Federowicz got his first start of the season, and he singled to put two on. Kershaw then stroked an RBI single before Federowicz was nailed at third to end the inning.
With changes to the lineup starting to trickle in, the Dodgers took the lead for good in the sixth. Ethier hit a one-out double to right. Now with two outs, Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 15 games with an RBI single, and it was 2-1.
Kershaw stayed on to get through eight innings as the Giants were still within a run. But, in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers showed some muscle to put the game away. With one out, Alex Castellanos hit his first career home run, a no-doubter to left, to make it 3-1. Elian Herrera then singled, which led to a two-run bomb to dead center from Juan Rivera, putting the Dodgers in full control at 5-1.
There was some question as to whether or not Kershaw would return for the complete game. He ended the eighth inning at 229 strikeouts, only one behind NL-leader R.A. Dickey. But with the Dodgers now enjoying a comfortable lead, he decided to end the season on a high note.
Kenley Jansen came in instead, and after walking Aubrey Huff leading off, breezed through the last three, striking out Xavier Nady to end it all.
I can imagine that there's plenty of pitchers out there who easily would have called it a season when his team was officially out of postseason contention. Not Kershaw. Here's a guy who started the season pitching with the flu and sick as a dog on Opening Day, and ended it by taking the ball in a meaningless game. He also could've thrown in the towel after his recent hip issues, but nope. Not Kershaw.
His latest effort resulted in eight innings for three hits, one run, three walks, and eight strikeouts. He got enough offensive support for the win, which hasn't exactly been the case for much of this season, so he finishes at a record of 14-9. Add in an NL-best 2.59 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, and he's once again in the thick of the NL Cy Young Award race. And deservedly so.
It pretty much goes without saying that the difference in atmosphere between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon was tremendous. If the Dodgers could've pulled it off on Tuesday, who know how this game and the Cardinals' game would've turned out on the last day. It's definitely an opportunity missed, and a painful one at that.
That will do it for this season, as the playoff begin on Friday. The Braves and Cardinals will meet in the one-game Wild Card playoff, with the winner facing the Nationals. The Giants and Reds open on Saturday. I guess I can try to root for an NL team to take the World Series. Just not the Giants!
If the second half of the season is any indication, then the new ownership group will definitely be busy in the offseason. Even though many of the main guns are already locked in for next season and beyond, you know Magic and the boys won't stop adding to the roster. Let's see how much they open their wallets this time.
To all of my readers of this site: a big THANK YOU, and talk to you real soon!