After getting through to the All-Star break still in first place, the Los Angeles Dodger faithful thought that the worst was behind them. Star slugger Matt Kemp was due to return after his second (and longer) stint on the disabled list. Mark Ellis just returned and Juan Rivera, also hobbled injuries, was due back.
Little did they know just how much things would get flipped upside down.
The second half didn’t start off too well for the Dodgers. They were victims to, perhaps, one of the most bewildering losses in recent memory, coming to hands of the San Diego Padres, just two games after the break.
The Dodgers were leading the Padres 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs and, with closer Kenley Jansen on the mound, the Dodgers looked to be on their way to victory.
The Padres, however, had runners at second and third and had no intention of going quietly into the night. Third-base runner Evereth Cabrera, realizing Jansen didn’t call timeout as he wandered behind the mound, took a bold chance and broke for home.
Jansen, who obviously didn’t expect Cabrera to run, threw a rushed throw to the plate. The ball got away from catcher A.J. Ellis, which allowed Will Venable, the runner at second to score the go-ahead run and seal the Dodgers loss.
Not the most ideal way to begin the second half of the season. The losses piled up, while the San Francisco Giants started winning.
It wasn’t all bad for the Dodgers. The new ownership group, which vowed that they would do whatever it took to put a good product on the field, made a big splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins. They also got Randy Choate, Shane Victorino and Brandon League a few weeks later.
The addition of Ramirez immediately sparked the Dodgers as they traveled up to San Francisco and promptly swept the three-game series against the Giants. Ramirez hit the game-winning home-run in the twelfth inning in the opener of the series. The Dodgers pounded the Giants, 10-0, in game two and Clayton Kershaw shut the Giants out in game three.
The sweep brought the Dodgers even with the Giants in first place. It was thought that the Dodgers, with the addition of Ramirez and soon Victorino, would use this momentum and take hold of the division, but that didn’t happen.
What happened was the Dodgers bats suddenly went cold. And when the bats would come alive, the pitching would fail them. They rarely got both facets on the same page, and they paid the price.
The Dodgers last hope came in mid-August. Giants star Melky Cabrera, who was putting up astronomical numbers that seemed too good to be true, was busted for using performance enhancing drugs and suspended for 50 games. The Giants lost their next few games and the Dodgers were in the process of completing a 7-3 crucial 10-game East coast trip.
The Dodgers were now back on top of the division by 1/2 game with the Giants coming to town for three. This was the biggest series of the year. The Giants were reeling and this was the Dodgers big opportunity to crush them.
If only it happened that way. The Giants, rejuvenated, jumped on the Dodgers in the first inning of each game. The Dodgers, who seemed to be pressing, never seemed to put together any type of rally.
They lost all three games and lost any chance they had at winning the division.
The only bright spot in the defeat was that it actually helped in gaining a key component that figures to be a Dodger for a while. Adrian Gonzalez, who fell out of favor in Boston, was put on waivers. The Dodgers, due to the sweep from the Giants, now had first claim on him over the Giants, and they claimed him.
Surely, if the Giants had a chance to add a big bat like Gonzalez, they would have done it. Heck, they likely would have done it just to block the Dodgers. So, if anything, the Giants sweep of the Dodgers in August was a good thing.
Gonzalez came to the Dodgers in a huge waiver-wire trade at the end of August. Him along with injured left fielder Carl Crawford, pitcher Josh Beckett and utility man Nick Punto. In exchange, the Dodgers sent struggling first baseman James Loney and four prospects to the Boston Red Sox.
Though the division seemed out of reach, the wildcard was well within their grasp and the Dodgers were ready with their new and improved lineup.
If only that was the case…