Well, it was a very unique season that saw the Dodgers both exceed expectations and fall short of them. A year ago, all of us here on the board would have taken the opportunity that this Dodger had without questions (in the race with 1 day left to go), yet we were all pretty dissatisfied in the manner that it carried out. We went from having Juan Rivera and Aaron Miles as the 4-5 hitters in September, to a $200 million payroll. We went from McCourt to Magic, from Uribe to Hanley, from Loney to AGone... and yet, we were pretty disappointed--but optimistic--about what the future may hold.
Seeing the Giants come from 0-2 makes this even more painful to write, but at least 2012 left us with some pretty good moments to look back on. We've said "next year!!" too many times on this board. But with the changes that have occurred, "next year" can't come soon enough.
With that said, here are my top 10 moments of 2012.
1. (7/27/12) Hanley's 10th-inning bomb gives LA 5-3 win in San Francisco
Feelings were certainly mixed when LA marched into ATT. The Dodgers had already blown a sizeable lead and were 3 back of SF, with a crucial series determining if LA would get knocked out of the race in 3 days. But, there was hope: 3 days prior, LA acquired the talented-but-maligned Hanley Ramirez, who was having a downyear but easily provided an upgrade at a power position. Despite losing 3 straight to the Cards prior to their ATT run (2 of those games with Hanley), LA knew they had a formidable lineup, and looked to establish that against Giant pitching. After a brilliant performance in the cold by Stephen Fife, LA blew a 3-1 lead to key hits off of Ronald Belisario, resulting in the game going to extras (in other words, setting up for major, major heartbreak). With 2 outs, on a questionable 2-2 pitch, Andre Ethier watched Sergio Romo's cutter perhaps nick the inside corner, but got off with a ball. After drawing the walk, Hanley Ramirez decided to take Sergio Romo deep (his 2nd home run allowed of the year) to left center, showboating as he trotted around the bases, and gave LA a dramatic 5-3 win. It was Hanley's welcome to LA party, and it could not have come at a better time. LA would go on to sweep San Francisco, and at least stay in contention for another 6 weeks.
2. (8/25/12)- Biggest trade in history happens, and Gonzalez decides to greet LA with a homerun.
Much like the first bulletpoint, LA was on the verge of falling out of contention, having just been swept by the Giants and now a game out of the lead, rumors started swirling that LA was making a run at Adrian Gonzalez in the post-waiver period. Tension built, disagreements about the rumors and with the rumors were had (including Crawford? Including Beckett? Maybe giving up Lee? Maybe not???). But when the trade finally happened, a great deal of excitement had actually built. The Dodgers were actually getting Gonzalez, and when us fans finally saw Gonzalez step up to the plate to a thunderous ovation, the anticipation was mounting. Then an easy swing, and a ball lifted about 15 rows back in right field, and all the tension was simply let out of the stadium, and sanity was finally restored about a ridiculous 24 hours of rumors, trade news, and reality sinking in. Nevermind that Gonzalez wouldn't hit another home run for about 4 weeks. At that moment, Dodger Stadium was electric.
3. (5/20/12)- Dem Gutty Bums do it in ridiculous fashion, again.
April and May were good times to us Dodger fans. For the first two months, LA was soaring out to an early division lead, despite having limited talent on the roster. Many felt that we were going to fall back to earth against the defending world series champions, and they were probably right. But after literally walking off on the Friday game, and after Kershaw threw a complete game shutout on Saturday, LA had the spotlight all to themselves in primetime on Sunday. Things weren't necessarily looking good, as Chad Billingsley labored through much of the game, and the Cards took a 5-2 lead midway through the 6th. But LA rallied, scoring 1 in the bottom half of the frame, and rallying again in the 7th. With 2 out and men on 1st and 2nd, Don Mattingly sends rookie Scott Van Slyke to bat against lefty Rzepczynski. Career HR count: 0. Career dependability count: close to none. Yet, when Van Slyke watched the count go to 3-0, Don Mattingly (against all odds) gave SVS the go-ahead to swing... good call, I'd say. Van Slyke jumped all over a fastball, hitting it into the pavilion, and giving the Dodgers the 6-5 lead. LA would hold on and sweep the Cardinals, allowing for their momentum to carry on a little bit longer.
4. (4/30/12) Matt Kemp proves to the MVP of April
Forget the quality of the opponent, at the moment. Nobody expected the Nationals to ultimately finish with the best record in the NL. Nobody expected Bryce Harper (who made his debut) to have a pretty good rookie campaign. And nobody expected Matt Kemp to simply continue his tear through all pitching. After a tight pitcher's duel, both the Nats and the Dodgers struggled with their bullpen, taking turns exchanging runs in the 9th inning. Fast forward to the bottom of the 10th, and Matt Kemp had tied the franchise record for April HRs with 10. Leading off the 10th, Kemp decided to break it, knocking out Tom Gozelanny's pitch over the center field wall, giving the Dodgers the first 2 in what would be a clean sweep. Little did we know that we were just 1 week away from witnessing the last of a healthy Matt Kemp.
5. (4/15/12) You don't see that 9th Inning Everyday!
LA was off to a hot 8-1 start, including a dominant 5-1 against the Padres. With the game tied going into the first homestand finale of the season, the Padres decided to threaten by putting their first 2 men on. With Jesus Guzman trying to bunt, Javy Guerra let one get away... a ball that sleeped and was headed right for Guzman's chest. In a very understanding move, Guzman tried to jump out of the way, somehow hitting his bat handle on the ball. With an confused look around the stadium, and fans sure that Guzman just got 1st base, AJ Ellis saw the ball bounce fair. Queue the conventional 2-5-4 triple play, where nobody on base even attempted to move. Replays showed that the ball didn't even touch Guzman, and somehow, it was the correct call. As if that wasn't whacky enough, Dee Gordon decided to lace a 2-out, 2-strike pitch to left field with the bases loaded, and LA was 9-1.
6. (9/2/12) AGone is a hero, for once!
After the expectations and the home run, it was safe to say that we were witnessing Adrian Gonzalez pressing, and the Dodger offense struggling to generate anything that might carry them over the top. LA had lost 5 of their previous 7 games, and needed a win to try and ignite them for the final month. Trailing 5-3 going into the 9th, LA mounted a rally, with Mark Ellis and Shane Victorino lacing singles. With 1 out, Gonzalez had a chance to tie the game. Instead, he won it. Not with a home run, mind you... but with a double down the right field line. Poor rally throws and great hustle by Victorino gave LA the opportunity to win it, and Shane touched home plate before any close play could occur.
7. (6/12/12) Juan Rivera was a hero, once...
It was the freeway series! Nevermind that, it was our gutty Dodgers, with only 1 legit power threat (Kemp was on the DL) and a bunch of nobodies, who managed to find crazier and crazier ways to stay ahead. This would be the last stretch before LA would start losing their lead, but at least it was a fun time. Even better, it was against the Pujols-Trout-Trumbo-Morales-Wilson-Weaver-Isringha usen-Haren-based Angels. After losing the first game, LA was down 2-1 in the 8th, and mounted a late rally. With the Angels 1 strike away from getting out of a jam, and with a lefty facing Andre Ethier, things were not looking too good for the boys in blue. Yet, somehow, Ethier lined a nasty curveball into right field, scoring the tying run and his 500th RBI. But did I say LA only had 1 legit power threat? On this night, it was 2. Juan Rivera stepped up, and crushed a fastball over the left field wall, giving LA a 5-2 lead, and one of their last true dramatic wins before falling into an awful slump.
8. (5/22/12) as was Ivan De Jesus...
The two best games that the Dodgers played are filled by bulletpoints 1 and 2. But not far behind was a 5/22 game against Arizona. Trailing 6-1 after 6, LA relied on washed up veterans and unproven rookies (Abreu, Sands, Gwynn) to tie the game against what was (at that point) a horrific AZ bullpen. But after all the valiant effort to come back, Lyle Overbay gave the DBacks a 7-6 lead with a 442-foot home run. With bench players expired and 2 out (though 2 on), LA had to send the seldom-used (with much despair on this board) Ivan DeJesus in a do-or-die situation. With 2 outs, 2 strikes, and 2 on, and with the Arizona outfield playing shallow, young Ivan decided to show off his muscle, driving a pitch 400 feet to center field, over Chris Young's head to the wall. The double scored the tying and go-ahead runs, and LA momentarily kept their streak going with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the desert.
9. (6/5/12) as was Elian Herrera...
When the Dodgers called up a career minor leaguer named Elian Herrera to replace the injured Mark Ellis, no Dodger fan had any expectation that Herrera would stick. But he made a big impression early, and none more big than his 2-out 2-run RBI to keep Cliff Lee winless in Philadelphia. With the rival Phils (who I still despise for what they did in 08 and 09) struggling, but leading, in the 3rd game of a 4-game set, Elian came up to the plate to make his mark. Everybody saw patience with Herrera, but no power... especially against one of the best lefties in baseball. Well, with 2 outs and 2 strikes, Herrera changed that, driving a pitch off of the very top of the wall in Citizens Bank Ballpark, driving in the 2 go-ahead runs and drop Cliff Lee to 0-3 on the year. Nevermind his game-winning RBI in the first game of the series, along with a few spectacular defensive plays. Because of Herrera, LA would go on to sweep the Phils in a 4-game road set... utterly satisfying.
10. (10/1/12) and... ah, what the hell... throw Herrera back in there.
We'll put Herrera back here, who after his heroics in June came back to earth in July and August, and eventually back to Albuquerque before being called back up for September. With the Dodgers making a late-season run on a 5-game winning streak, and with the Dodgers in a must-win game to keep their postseason hopes alive, Herrera delivered a clutch walkoff infield single with the bases loaded. Nevermind the Dodgers would be eliminated the next night, but at least they fought hard down the stretch, and gave themselves a chance to catch the Redbirds.
Anything Cruz-mania (probably should have made this list)
Andre Ethier's go-ahead homerun for the home opener versus Pittsburgh
Matt Treanor's 2-run single to help lead a sweep of the Mets at Citi Field
Ethier, Hanley, and Cruz go back-to-back-to-back in Atlanta
AJ Ellis walkoff 3-run homerun to stun Houston
Gonzalez ends his power outage, hits 2 HRs on a primetime ESPN game in Cincinnati
Matt Kemp temporarily ends power outage, hits go-ahead home run in the 2nd game of a doubleheader in Washington after LA blows a 6-run lead
Kemp's 2-run walkoff home run to beat Philadelphia
Tony Gwynn's bases-clearing triple knocks out Tim Lincecum and the Giants in early May
Ethier's grand slam knocks out the Mariners in Seattle