Gonzo Says Goodbye With Flare

If it was Luis Gonzalez's final appearance in Dodger Blue -- and it well may have been -- it was a classic. He lined a pinch-hit single to left field in the last of the 10th to break a 5-5 tie and give the Dodgers their 82nd win of the season. The game drew a paid crowd of 51,983, running the season total to 3,807,825, the most in the 46-year history of the franchise in Los Angeles.

Fittingly, while the veteran Gonzalez drove in the winning run, rookie Matt Kemp -- who will replace him -- had two doubles and a single, drove in a run and threw out Kevin Frandsen at the plate.

Russell Martin slugged his 19th home run, second on the team to Jeff Kent's 20, giving himself an opportunity to become the only the second catcher in major league history to finish with 20 home runs and 20 steals (Ivan Rodriguez, 1999).

He also drove in his 87th run and needs three more RBI to join Mike Piazza (5 times), Roy Campanella (4 times) and Paul Lo Duca (2001) as the only Dodger catchers to collect 90 RBI in a season.  

Juan Pierre drove in three runs and ran his consecutive game streak of 433, the longest among active players. He is poised to become only the fourth Dodger to appear in every game of a season since Steve Garvey's NL-record streak of 1,207 games ended in 1983.

The list includes Eddie Murray (1989) Eric Karros (1997) and Shawn Green (2000). Pierre also stole his 64th base, one short of his career high in 2003.

Andy LaRoche and Chin-Lung Hu had two hits and scored two runs apiece. LaRoche scored the winning run after his infield single.

Takashi Saito pitched two innings and was credited with the victory after Chad Billingsley's shortest start of the season gave the game over to the bullpen in the second inning. Billingsley lasted only 1.1 innings and allowed four runs on six hits and three walks.

The Giants thumped Billingsley for four runs on six hits, and he gave up three walks and threw 54 pitches, 34 of them in the first inning. He finished the season with a 12-5, 3.31 record.

"It's not exactly how I wanted to finish the season, but overall I'm pleased," Billingsley said. He retired only four of the 13 batters he faced overall.

"He was outstanding this year," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "He came out of spring training and worked out of the bullpen, and he learned a lot of things, and he brought them to the table when he became a starter. It will be a pleasant thing to watch from day one of spring training knowing that he is one of the starters for the Los Dodgers and to see him get a full year behind him.

"This guy doesn't lack for confidence. He is far ahead of the game (compared) to a lot of guys his age who are just coming out of college."

The Dodgers, now 82-79, will finish with a winning record for the seventh time in eight years during this decade. They have a shot at sweeping their season-ending series with the Giants, which would give them 83 wins - the exact number of victories St. Louis compiled last season on their way to winning the World Series.

Also making perhaps his final appearance for the Dodgers was veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who took over for Billingsley and dominated the Giants for the next 4.1 innings, retiring 13 of the 15 batters he faced.

Hendrickson avoided arbitration last winter by agreeing to a one-year, $2.9 million contract, after which he went 4-8 with a 5.21 ERA. He is eligible for arbitration again this year, and would probably get a solid raise so the club is almost certain to non-tender him, making Hendrickson a free agent.

San Francisco jumped into a 4-0 lead in the second inning and L.A. rallied with two in the third on Pierre's RBI groundout and Kemp's RBI double. They went ahead 5-4 with three in the fourth when Martin led off with his 19th homer and Pierre added a two-run single.

Hendrickson gave up a tying home run in the fifth (the only run allowed by the Dodgers bullpen over 8.2 innings) and with Rudy Seanez, Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor putting zeros on the board the Dodgers had prime chances in the eighth and ninth.

Los Angeles loaded the bases in both innings but failed to score. Takashi Saito (2-1) had taken over in the top of the ninth and then added a perfect 10th.

Andy LaRoche beat out an infield hit, his second hit of the game, and Chin-Lung Hu bunted him to second. Gonzalez then lined a shot into left-center to drive in LaRoche with the winning run.

"I just missed the pitch before, but he left another one down and over the heart of the plate," Gonzalez said. "I knew I hit it decent enough, and the outfielders were playing in because they had to try to cut the runner off coming to the plate. So when it left the bat I figured it was going to go in the gap."

The victory insured the Dodgers would finish with a winning record for the 38th time since moving to Los Angeles in 1958. Only one other franchise has more winning seasons since then – the Yankees (40). The Red Sox have 35 winning seasons, followed by the Cardinals and Giants with 32 each.   

In today's season finale against the Giants, Eric Stults (1-3, 4.93 ERA) opposes Barry Zito (10-13, 4.63). Stults starts in place of Brad Penny, who was shut down with a 16-4 mark and 3.03 ERA. Penny went 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA in the second half, compared to 6-7 with a 6.25 last year in the second half.
 Score by innings
San Francisco	310 010 000 0-5
Los Angeles	002 300 000 1-6

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre cf	5  0  2  3  .294
Valdez 2b	3  1  2  0  .229
Kemp rf	        5  0  3  1  .337
Loney 1b	4  0  1  0  .335
Martin c	5  1  1  1  .294
Young rf	5  0  0  0  .344
LaRoche 3b	5  2  2  0  .236
Hu ss	        4  2  2  0  .269
Billingsley p	0  0  0  0  .111
 Hendrickson p	1  0  0  0  .037
 Ethier ph	0  0  0  0  .286
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Proctor p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .260
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Gonzalez ph	1  0  1  1  .278
   Totals	39  6  14  6
   Giants	37  5  11  5

 2B- Kemp 2 (12). 3B- Hu (1). HR- Martin (19).
RBI- Pierre 3 (41), Kemp (42), Martin (87),
Gonzalez (68). S- Hendrickson, Hu. SB- Pierre
(64). LOB- Los Angeles 11, San Francisco 8.
DP- 3 (Kemp and Martin; LaRoche and Loney; Hu
and Loney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley	1.1  6  4-4  3  1  3.31
Hendrickson	4.2  2  1-1  0  1  5.21
Seanez	        0.2  2  0-0  0  0  3.79
Beimel	        0.1  0  0-0  1  1  3.88
Proctor	        1.0  1  0-0  0  0  3.65
Saito (2-1)	2.0  0  0-0  1  1  1.40
 WP- Billingsley. T- 3:42. Att-51,983.
Gonzalez's Bids Farewell-- Luis Gonzalez knew the club considered him a one-year stopgap in the outfield until Matt Kemp was ready but that didn't make the thought of leaving any easier.
"There were high expectations, and it's been a disappointment," said Gonzalez. "It's been a weird year for a lot of us. They will re-evaluate the team and a lot of us will move on and continue playing." He pointed out that the Dodgers were winning in spite of the sub-par seasons by he and Nomar Garciaparra. In the second half, he said he struggled when used only part-time.

"I'm a competitor," he said. "A lot of times, people see us as selfish, that we don't want the young kids to play. That's not true. We just want to win. Guys can hit .330, and it doesn't mean you win. When we struggled, I just wish they would have stayed with us.
"We would have found a way to fix it. We know the numbers weren't there, but we were winning games. We're good players, we'd find a way. The lineups were different, and it makes it hard for everybody."
Gonzalez said he understands the passion of Dodgers fans who have taken to the young players.
"They see how energetic the kids are, and the old guys are more low-key," he said. "I believe we might not look good, but we got the job done. In 2001 in Arizona, we had the oldest team in the league, but we got the job done."

Free Agents-- Here's the list of Dodgers eligible for free agency after this season: Gonzalez, Roberto Hernandez, Shea Hillenbrand, Olmedo Saenz, Mark Sweeney, Rudy Saenez and David Wells. The Dodgers hold 2008 options on Mike Lieberthal (who may not be re-signed), Ramon Martinez and Randy Wolf (who may be re-signed but at a lower amount than he received in 2007). Jeff Kent's $9 million 2008 option has vested and is guaranteed.
Sweeney is 8-for-26 as a pinch-hitter with the Dodgers and is 24-for-75 on the season, including numbers compiled with the Giants before he was acquired. His 24 pinch-hits this year are the most since Lenny Harris had 26 in 1999.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers' paid attendance of 51,983 puts the team over 3.8 million for the first time in franchise history and breaks last year's attendance record of 3,758,545. The total of 3,807,825 is also the fifth-highest in National League History, trailing Colorado (1993, 1996, 1997) and Atlanta (1993). ...Loney's .548 slugging percentage is the highest on the club for anyone with more than 27 at-bats. His 15 homers and 67 RBIs tie Luis Gonzalez for third on the club in both categories with 127 fewer at-bats. His 32 September RBIs are fourth-most in Dodgers history. ...Andre Ethier said he's determined to win back an everyday job and hopes the club believes he's worthy. "This off-season I'm working to get back to earning and keeping a spot as an everyday outfielder. That's my goal coming into Spring Training. As of right now, it's my job to earn." Ethier hit .291 with a .356 on-base percentage and .480 slugging percentage in the second half this year, compared to .277 average .337 OBP and .429 slugging last year.