Don Mattingly rolled the dice a bit when he turned Sunday's road finale in Chicago into a "bullpen day." His thinking was to save Dan Haren for Monday against the Giants, followed by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
Jamey Wright started things, and five relievers finished it off, as the Dodgers used 16 hits in beating the Cubs 8-5. In total, Wright lasted two innings, Carlos Frias three, Chris Perez 1 1/3, Paco Rodriguez 2/3, Pedro Baez one, and Kenley Jansen one for his 43rd save in 48 chances.
I wouldn't say Wright was fantastic, but he got through a couple of innings giving up one run. He worked around a single and walk in the first for no runs, but another walk and single in the second led to an RBI single from Chris Coghlan.
Frias then took over from there, pitching the next three. As has been the case with him, it wasn't a smooth ride. Arismendy Alcantara stroked an RBI double in the third, and after a scoreless fourth, an RBI single by Luis Valbuena and a wild pitch brought in two more runs.
The good news is that the Dodgers' bats came to play, and gave more than enough support. Kind of like the day before, though Mattingly's bumbling bullpen management blew that one. But I digress.
The offense put up two in the first, two in the third, and single runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth. Normally it seems like the Dodgers do their damage in one big inning, but Sunday it was nice to see them score early and keep the pressure on throughout.
Matt Kemp was the star, as his two-run homer in the third made it 4-1. He ended up 4-for-5 with four RBIs, as he continues to swing a hot bat with 23 homers and 84 RBIs. Adrian Gonzalez added two hits and his 40th double, tied for sixth in baseball, along with RBI #112, best in all of baseball by three over Mike Trout. Wow, that's just amazing.
Other players with two hits included Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Juan Uribe. The team went 8-for-17 with RISP, as opposed to the Cubs going 3-for-13. There's your difference.
All in all, it was a great way to end the season on the road, as the Dodgers took three of four at historic Wrigley Field, and ended the season 49-32 away from home, which is currently the best in baseball. That's great news for the postseason if they have to win a big game on the road.
Also great was Mattingly's plan for resting a starter like Haren and relying on the many arms in the 'pen. The day before, I, along with countless others, took him to task for stubbornly keeping J.P. Howell in the game too long, and for using crappy Brian Wilson in the setup role. On Sunday things went much better, and he can thank his offense for keeping it that way.
With the magic number at three, the Dodgers have a GREAT opportunity to clinch at home and celebrate with the home crowd. It could come as early as Tuesday if they win the first two.
But in my opinion, that's not good enough. I say the Dodgers clinch on Tuesday, quickly acknowledge the crowd, then fly to Arizona to celebrate in the Diamondbacks' pool again. Now THAT would be sweet!