Gordon Has a Jump on Dodgers Shortstop Job

Opening Day 2012 is a little over five months away, but in the mind of manager Don Mattingly, Dee Gordon has won the shortstop job. That's what the Dodgers wanted. It's why they traded Rafael Furcal in late July, clearing the way for Gordon to play. And the way Gordon has played lately, it's been a foregone conclusion.

Gordon had two hits and two walks Thursday in the Dodgers' 8-2 win over the Giants in the final home game of the season. The Dodgers are again one game over .500 (78-77) after reaching a low of 37-51 after the July 6 game. Gordon is batting .384 (33-for-87) with five doubles, 11 steals, 15 runs scored and five RBI in 20 games since coming off the DL on Sept. 1.

"Dee's been great," Mattingly said. "He hasn't done anything to hurt his case. He's still hitting close to .300. He's got over 20 (steals).

Hasn't hurt himself at shortstop. Anything can happen over the winter. You can break a leg or something. But at this point, he's looked really good." The actual numbers: a .299/.324/.355 slash line with 23 steals in 30 attempts. Gordon has walked only seven times in 206 plate appearances, against 25 strikeouts, and he will need to increase his on-base percentage.

Two of the walks came in Thursday's game, and the final one was crucial because it allowed Matt Kemp to bat once more. Kemp responded with a dramatic two-run home run in his final plate appearance at home this year, capping a four-hit, 10-total-base night.

"Next year, we're definitely making the playoffs," Kemp told Prime Ticket after the game, and the interview was played over the speakers at Dodger Stadium.

Loney Stays Hot
Dodger first baseman James Loney picked up a hit in three trips last night and has 14 hits over 23 at-bats (.607) during his current six-game hitting streak. After batting just .170 (16-for-94) through his first 24 games of the season, the 27-year-old has been one of the National League's best hitters since April 26:  
NL Batting Leaders Since April 26
1. Jose Reyes, NYM		.333
2. Ryan Braun, MIL  		.321
3. Hunter Pence, HOU-PHI  	.320
4. Albert Pujols, STL  		.316
5. James Loney, LAD      	.315 
6. Matt Kemp, LAD          	.313
7. Michael Morse, WAS     	.313
8. Carlos Gonzalez, COL     	.312  

--CF Matt Kemp, who turns 27 on Friday, set a career high with three doubles, then added a homer, and he was robbed of a fifth hit by Giants RF Carlos Beltran. Kemp has raised his batting average 12 points in the last six games, all multi-hit games. His batting average sits at .326 with six games left. The Brewers were off, so .330 remains the NL-leading batting average for Ryan Braun. The Mets' Jose Reyes went 1-for-4, so his average dropped to .329. Kemp has a real shot at winning the Triple Crown, something no NL player has done in 74 years. Kemp is hitting .336, which is third in the league but just four points behind the leader, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. His 36 homers are second, one behind Albert Pujols. And he has five more RBIs than any other NL player.

--LHP Clayton Kershaw will make his final start Sunday at San Diego rather than Monday at Arizona. The Padres game is on his regular turn, and Kershaw wanted to stay on normal rest. There was a slim possibility that Kershaw would have faced the Diamondbacks, in the interest of putting the best team out there to face a playoff contender.Kershaw has won 11 straight home decisions dating to May 2 and is 11-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 home starts. His home winning streak is tied for the third longest by a LA Dodger

Highest Home Winning Streak by 
Los Angeles Starting Pitchers
T1. Ed Roebuck		12 (6/4/60-8/29/62)
T1. Orel Hershiser	12 (9/30/84-10/2/85)
T3. Chan Ho Park 	11 (7/10/97-7/24/98)
T3. Clayton Kershaw	11 (5/2/11-current)
T4. Sandy Koufax    	10 (5/4-7/22/64)
T4. Don Sutton     	10 (8/2/74-5/6/75)
   Source: Elias Sports Bureau
The left-hander could also challenge to become the 31st overall and 16th National League pitcher to win the Triple Crown since 1900. Kershaw is currently second in the NL with 20 wins (one behind Ian Kennedy) and leads the league with a 2.30 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 31 starts.

  Kershaw is currently tied for the fourth-highest single-season winning percentage among starting pitchers in Los Angeles Dodger history:
Highest Winning Percentage. by 
Los Angeles Starting Pitchers
 1. Orel Hershiser, 1985	.864 (19-3)
 2. Sandy Koufax, 1963	        .833 (25-5)
 3. Tommy John, 1974  	        .813 (13-3)
T4. Brad Penny, 2007   	        .800 (16-4)
T4. Rick Rhoden, 1976		.800 (12-3)
T4. Clayton Kershaw, 2011	.800 (20-5)
 6. Sandy Koufax, 1964  	.792 (19-5) 
            --RHP Hiroki Kuroda allowed two solo home runs but no additional runs in seven-plus innings. He walked none and struck out four in his penultimate start of the season. Kuroda is scheduled to make pitch Tuesday at Arizona, which could be his final start in the United States.

--OF Jerry Sands extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the third inning, and he just missed a couple of home runs. He went 18-for-39 (.462) on the 10-game homestand. The 23-year-old is hitting .358 recall from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sept. 6.  

--RHP Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he struck out "only" one batter. That was the first time in 10 games he didn't strike out two or more batters, the longest streak by a major league reliever in the past two years. It was his 25th scoreless appearance in his last 27 games and the 23-year-old has posted a 0.46 ERA with a .098 opponents' batting average since June 18. He leads the Majors this season (min. 45.0 IP) with an average of 15.74 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and is within striking distance of the all-time single-season mark of 15.99 strikeouts/9.0 innings set by Carlos Marmol in 2010.

--RHP Tim Lincecum has two more years in arbitration and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, that unlike most pitchers, the Giants' ace doesn't want a long-term contract. File this away for future reference. He says, "It's just easier for me mentally not to have to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Not that you don't want to succeed, but when you're signed to a long-term deal, it's like saying, ‘I'm going to live up to every expectation.' That's why I like going year to year, so I can improve on it and not sit on what I've done."

--The Dodgers had three prospects selected by Baseball America to its year-end Minor League All-Star Teams, including the club's Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year. Right-handed reliever Shawn Tolleson was selected to the publication's Minor League All-Star Second Team, while Scott Van Slyke was selected as a Double-A All-Star and Ogden outfielder Joc Pederson was honored as a Rookie-level All-Star.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 84 -- Age that Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda turned on Thursday. Lasorda spent the game in the dugout in uniform as an honorary coach at the invitation of manager Don Mattingly. Even though some in the media mistakenly asked him before the game about arguing calls with umpires or making pitching changes, Lasorda was only there in an honorary capacity and was not involved in game strategy. Lasorda exchanged lineup cards, escorted his granddaughter to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and presented uniforms to members of the Little League World Series championship team from nearby Huntington Beach.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Could he play left field? He probably could. I asked (outfield coach) Davey (Lopes) actually if James could play the outfield. He said, yes, he thought he could. There's always the disclaimer though. Do you live with less range? He's got a cannon. It's not out of the realm (of possibilities). He's been there before. I think I saw a video before where he hits his head against a wall or something. It was his first game. They took him off on a stretcher and he waved to the crowd or something." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the possibility of James Loney playing the outfield if the Dodgers signed Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to play first base.

--OF Tony Gwynn Jr. (sore left shoulder) did not play Sept. 15-22. He hopes to play again this season.

--RF Andre Ethier (sore right knee) was shut down for the season Sept. 8. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 14, and he figures to need about six to eight weeks of rehab. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He threw a bullpen session June 7. He made rehab appearances on June 21 and 23 for Class AAA Albuquerque, but he felt tightness in his elbow when playing catch June 25, and he was shut down from throwing. He was cleared to begin a throwing program in early August, and he threw off a mound for the first time Sept. 12. He had season-ending arthroscopic surgery Sept. 19.

--INF Juan Uribe (abdominal strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 24 with what originally was called a left hip strain. Uribe was taking batting practice every day in mid-August, but he hadn't improved enough to be able to run the bases. He got a cortisone shot to numb his left hip. He underwent season-ending surgery Sept. 7 to repair a sports hernia.

--RHP Rubby De La Rosa (sprained ulnar collateral ligament in right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 1. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery Aug. 9.

--RHP Jon Garland (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2. He played catch June 21 but had to shut it down quickly. He underwent season-ending surgery during the All-Star break and began his rehab.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right radial nerve irritation, sore neck) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14 due to the arm injury. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 29, but he was shut down in early June due to a neck ailment. He underwent neck surgery June 16, and he likely will miss the rest of the season. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 6.

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