2012 Season Review Series: Los Angeles Dodgers

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Of course, returning to the outfield was team captain and perennial MVP candidate Matt Kemp. Andre Ethier returned to man right field, and Juan Rivera was slated to start the season in left field. In the infield the Dodgers again went with longtime first baseman James Loney. Lone-dog had been most disappointing. He was once a top draft pick, his power never developed, and his hitting declined in general. This was to be a make or break year for Loney. If he could not find his stroke again, we knew he would be traded, and indeed he was. Defensive specialist Mark Ellis played second base. Since Carroll had left for free agency, and Rafael Furcal was long gone. The Dodgers decided to start the season with rookie phenom Dee Gordon at shortstop. Juan Uribe began his second season at the hot corner. A.J. Ellis was the starting catcher, and the bench was filled with guys like Jerry Hairston, Justin Sellers, and Tony Gwynn Jr.

The starting rotation included reigning Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, who had another terrific season. Filling out the rest of the rotation was free agents Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and rotation mainstays, Chad Billingsley, and lefty Ted Lilly. The Dodgers started the season with second year right hander Javy Guerra as the closer, but would eventually move converted catcher Kenley Jansen to the closer role when Guerra was hit in the jaw by a Brian McCann line drive, and then struggled. Making up the rest of the bullpen was lefty Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Todd Coffey, and veteran journeyman Jamey Wright, who had a surprisingly effective season.

The Dodgers began the season by beating the Padres 5-3 at Petco Park. It was a worrisome win since Clayton Kershaw had come down with the flu. Our warrior Kersh was somehow able to pitch three shut-out frames before having to come out. What worried everyone most was that the same flu bug infected Vin Scully. The legendary broadcaster had to miss his first opening day in over 30 years because of that dam flu bug. Vin returned to the booth a few days later.

The Dodgers opened up the season red-hot, winning nine of their first ten games. It was their best start to a season since their world championship season of 1981. The Dodgers finished April with a 16-7 record. The Dodgers continued to win throughout May as well. They finished May with a 16-12 mark.

Matt Kemp had one of the greatest April’s in Dodger history. Kemp hit .417 in April with 12 home runs. On April 30th, he hit a walk-off home run to beat the Nationals, as the Dodgers swept the series at home. As Bison scored the winning run and was mobbed at the plate by his teammates, 50,000 Dodger fans chanted MVP…MVP…MVP! The Dodgers were in first place, and Dodger Stadium was rockin’!

First place is where the Dodgers stayed for most of the first half of the season. Dodger fans rejoiced as the Dodgers won everything in sight over those first few months. They swept the world champion Cardinals at home in May. They came from seven runs behind to beat the Dbacks in a game in Mid May. This prompted Vin Scully to call the Dodgers a wonder team. Everything was fun, fun, fun in the sun, at least for a little while that is.

“This team of wonder….” ~ Vin Scully

The Dodgers had the best record in Baseball until June 17th. The Dodgers won four in a row in Philadelphia, sweeping the Phillies in June. All seemed right with the world on June 17th, as Juan Rivera’s three run shot defeated the Angels, the Dodgers were a season high 17 games above .500. That’s how things went for a while. Kemp and Ethier drove in all the runs in front of solid pitching and defense. Most days it was enough to win ballgames. It all seemed to good to be true. Could the Dodgers keep up this high level of play?