Bitter-Sweet Finale in L.A.

The end of each baseball season is like a little death to baseball aficionados although some Dodgers fans may have breathed a sigh of relief that the tattered and fumbled 2010 season had finally run its course, the final-day win over Arizona cushioned the departure of manager Joe Torre and catcher Brad Ausmus, as well, it is suspected, a number of others on the final-day roster.

After the game the players said their good-byes to their teammates and said the traditional "See you next year," knowing full well that they won't see some of them next year, at least in the same uniform. And the annual turnover will be even greater before the 2012 season opens with so many questions to be answered.
Due to a combination of injuries, poor decisions as well as the elephant in the room, the uncertainty engendered by the divorce battle by the two McCourts, even with seven wins in their last 10 games they they only post a 80-82 on the season and finished a horrendous 12 games behind.

With organist Nancy B. Heftley playing sentimental selections between innings, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier went out with a flourish, something we used to call a "salary drive" in the days that contracts were year to year and your next year's pay was based in great measure on what you accomplished the season before.

Kemp homered in his fifth straight game and Ethier ran has consecutive hit streak to six by going 2-for-2 after his four hits the day before. It was a career-high 28 for Kemp and it topped the Dodgers power charts as did his 89 runs batted in, topping James Loney by one. Ethier was also walked and hit by a pitch to finish the season by reaching base eight straight times.

Kemp, who played in all 162 games, became the first Dodgers player to homer in five consecutive games since Shawn Green and Roy Campanella.

Lefty Ted Lilly ran his L.A. record to 7-3 and his overall mark to 10-12, allowing a single run in seven innings. He topped -- or bottomed as you might see it -- the league by receiving the least run support of any starting pitcher in the N.L. league, something less that three runs a game.

He also became the first Dodgers player to homer in five consecutive games since Shawn Green in 2001.

Closer Hong-Chih Kuo saved his 12th game and lowered his ERA to 1.20, tying Eric Gagné's record mark set in 2003. "But he's still my idol," Kuo. Technically Kuo's 1.200 tops Gagne's 1.202.

Dodgers rookie of the year, reliever Kenley Jansen, worked a scoreless eighth inning and lowered his ERA to 0.67, moving into fourth place on the all-time major league list for pitchers with 25 or more innings. He trails a trio of pitchers (Buck O'Brian, Joey Devine) and George McQuillan), most of whom are pretty much unknown to the average fan.

Ausmus, who had back surgery but fought back to play again before the season ended, caught the 1,938th game (#7 all-time) of his 18-year career and added a single and a double.

Torre, ever aware of his players, started Rafael Furcal but removed him after he struck out to open the game, thus preserving his .300 batting average.

And in the seventh inning, Torre sent 33-year-old rookie John Lindsey into the game as a pinch-hitter for Lilly even though Lindsey's broken hand was in a cast. Lindsey reached the Major Leagues after 16 Minor League seasons was removed before batting and returned to a hero's welcome in the dugout. The veteran minor-leaguer will undergo surgery Wednesday.

"I had the plan for the last couple of days" said Torre. "Just to look at this kid and know how it's not easy to play it, to see how determined this young man has been all these years to get to the big leagues and then have the misfortune of getting hurt, you realize how much the game means to certain people."

Torre, his wife and daughter, were honored after the game.

"I'm leaving you in very good hands," Torre told fans after thanking them for making his family feel at home. "Donnie Mattingly is very special. Thanks for your kindness, your love, your passion, for welcoming me to this town."

Mattingly took the microphone and said, "This will be a tough act to follow."

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