Dodgers done in by big-game Hunter

Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

By Cary Osborne

In the game after, a 7-1 loss to the Padres in San Diego on Tuesday, it’s the little things we choose to look at.

Away from the fact that the Dodgers struggled with runners in scoring position and rookie Hunter Renfroe, in his sixth career game, became the second player this century to knock in at least seven runs against the Dodgers (the other being another Hunter — Pence — on September 14, 2013), Dodger relievers ignited final week competition for playoff roster spots.

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Dodgers revise rotation to include Julio Urías

Sandy Koufax speaks with Rich Hill, Julio Urias and interpreter Jesus Quinoes before the Vin Scully Appreciation Day ceremony September 23. Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Sandy Koufax speaks with Rich Hill, Julio Urías and interpreter Jesus Quinonez before the Vin Scully Appreciation Day ceremony September 23. Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Andrew Toles, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have announced their starting pitchers for the regular season’s remaining six games, and while it is (as always) subject to change, there are some interesting tea leaves to read.

Fresh off a recent conversation with Sandy Koufax (above), Julio Urías has been pegged to start Thursday for the Dodgers, following — in a switch — Kenta Maeda tonight and Jose De León on Wednesday.

With Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw and Maeda slated for the final series against the Giants, that means veterans Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy would appear to be all but out of consideration for the National League Division Series.

In their only appearances of the month, Anderson threw five innings September 22, Kazmir a single inning September 23 and McCarthy — most encouragingly — six innings of two-run ball September 25.

There’s never been any shortage of surprises with these Dodgers, but you’d be asking any of those pitchers to start on 2 1/2 weeks of rest, simulated innings aside. Game 4 of the NLDS would be played October 11.

Aside from the implications for finalizing the NLDS roster, the main question now is whether Urías, who has a 3.53 ERA this season but has thrown only two innings since September 13, is in a competition with De León to be positioned as No. 4 starter in the playoffs, or whether this is all a backup plan.

Based on Dodger playoff history from 2013-15, Clayton Kershaw would come back on three days’ rest to pitch in Game 4. His recovery from a disk herniation has mostly tabled that concept, but if Kershaw is feeling 100 percent, would you count him out?

Essentially, the Dodgers can start Kershaw in Game 4, turn to one of the rookies, or treat it as a glorified bullpen game, with Urías or De León combining with Ross Stripling to take the starter innings.

We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?

Meanwhile, Hill pitching before Kershaw this weekend in San Francisco shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a change in the pecking order. It’s far more likely to give Hill an extra day of rest before he takes the mound in the playoffs. By pitching Saturday, Kershaw would open the NLDS on five days’ rest, with Hill on seven days’ rest.

However, if you want to mull something off the wall, consider this: There are three days’ rest between NLDS Game 1 (October 7) and Game 4, but four days’ rest between NLDS Games 2 (October 8) and Game 5 (October 13). So if you wanted Kershaw to pitch on normal rest for two games, a Game 2 start would be the way to go. In that case, though, you’re guaranteeing the need for a fourth starter in the series.

Update: Dave Roberts confirmed tonight that it would be Kershaw, Hill and Maeda to begin the playoffs, in that order.

Dodger farm system became a production company in 2016

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Cody Bellinger (Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

By Cary Osborne

What good are baseball prospects if they don’t move?

The Dodgers came into 2016 with the top farm system in baseball across the board, according to MLB.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. They had five prospects in MLB.com’s preseason Top 100 Prospects list. And all five moved.

No. 1 overall prospect Corey Seager will, in all likelihood, be the National League Rookie of the Year. MLB.com No. 4 prospect Julio Uriás graduated from the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers as a teenager and showed rapid progress in the Majors with Los Angeles. No. 24 prospect Jose De León knocked on the door so hard that the Dodgers answered in September, calling him up and watching him contribute to wins right away. In addition, the Dodgers moved No. 62 Grant Holmes and No. 95 Frankie Montas to Oakland in the deal for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.

In all, seven Dodger minor-leaguers made their Major League debut this year. Many others raised their game, climbed the ladder and gave the Dodger farm good reason to be highly regarded next year as well.

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AM 570 to simulcast Vin Scully’s entire final broadcast

Jill Weisleder/Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Vin Scully’s entire final broadcast Sunday in San Francisco will be simulcast on SportsNet LA, KTLA and AM 570 LA Sports, meaning that radio listeners will hear Scully from start to finish.

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Dodgers face difficult task trimming roster for playoffs

COLORADO ROCKIES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

By Jon Weisman

With their place in the 2016 postseason assured, the Dodgers now have the final six games of the regular season to measure out rest to certain players — and begin final evaluations of who will go on the postseason roster.

Somehow, the Dodgers have to trim their 40-man squad — with every single player on it active — down to 25 by Game 1 of the National League Division Series on October 7. It won’t be easy.

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Culberson joins pantheon of Dodger heroes

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Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

He stood at the plate as Charlie Culberson. Twenty-four seconds later, his helmet flung in the air, his feet barely touching the ground, he returned … as Charlie Culberson. 

Never before in Los Angeles Dodger history had a player stood in the batters’ box with no one on base, taken a swing — and won a division title. But that’s exactly what Culberson did today, sending the Dodgers to the playoffs with a 10th-inning, walkoff home run to beat Colorado.

“I’m floating right now,” Culberson said. “It’s awesome. I couldn’t have written it up any better.”

Culberson’s happy drive to left field was an intoxicating blend of Steve Finley, who delivered the 2004 National League West title with a grand slam, and Dick Nen.

Nen was the Dodger who, in his first Major League game on September 18, 1963, homered in the ninth inning to keep the Dodgers alive for a critical extra-inning victory in their World Series championship season.

The 27-year-old Culberson is considerably more experienced — today’s was his 178th game in the big leagues — but still much closer on the fame-obscurity spectrum to Nen than Finley.

“It (speaks) to how he goes about what he does,” Andrew Friedman said. “Great role player. Knows his role, fits in really well with the clubhouse — how much he cares. There are so many different aspects that make him very fitting to be the one to hit the walkoff.”

This was hardly Culberson’s first big game for the Dodgers. It wasn’t even his first big 10th inning. On April 9, he saved Los Angeles in a game at San Francisco, making dazzling plays at both shortstop and left field, and going 2 for 5 with the game-winning double in a 3-2 victory.

But it was the biggest, putting him in the ring of regular-season Dodger heroes that includes Nen, R.J. Reynolds, Finley and a select number of others.

“He was a non-roster invitee (to Spring Training), he was up and down all year long and he did whatever you asked,” Dave Roberts said. “I embraced him earlier, and he said outside of his baby, that’s the biggest moment of his life.”

Culberson finished the game 3 for 5, to raise his on-base percentage in 58 plate appearances with the Dodgers to .310 and his OPS to .696. For a defense-first player, that’ll do.

Still, he had gone 25 months since hitting a Major League home run. He had missed all but five games of the 2015 season recovering from a bulging disk and back surgery. He spent most of 2016 in Triple-A.

And now, he’s Charlie Culberson.

“The Dodgers gave me an opportunity to play,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just happy to be here and be part of this awesome team. … I’m just fortunate to put on a uniform and be able to play baseball.”

One celebration down, ‘three more celebrations’ to go for NL West champion Dodgers

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By Jon Weisman

One of these years, it wasn’t going to happen. One of these years, the National League West title would go to someone else.

Three months ago, 2016 looked dangerously like it would be that year. The Dodgers began the season in pursuit of their fourth straight division championship, but on June 26, eight games down in the division, one ace down on the disabled list — it was a feeding frenzy for those looking to bury Los Angeles.

Exactly three months later, on September 26, the Dodgers will wake up not eight games down in the NL West, but eight games up — and playoff bound.

Instead of surrendering with Clayton Kershaw out, the Dodgers found a deep resolve. Not coincidentally, it came from a deep roster.

“We talked a lot at Spring Training about depth in the organization,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, in the bombastic clubhouse after today’s clinching victory over Colorado. “It wasn’t something that we were necessarily eager to showcase, as early as we did and as often as we did. But it’s an incredible organization. The number of fingerprints on this division title spans so many different players and so many different departments in our organization. So many people can be proud of it.

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Vin Scully’s Dodger Stadium farewell is a lovefest

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By Jon Weisman

High above the champagne party in the Dodger clubhouse, the booth sits empty now. And yet it feels so full.

Vin Scully clocked in at Dodger Stadium for the final time today, a day that encapsulated so much of what made him baseball’s premier voice.

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#4peat! Dodgers win NL West again

nl-west-champs-2016-1024x576

By Jon Weisman

Fourmidable!

And for Vin Scully, unbelievable.

At Vin’s final day broadcasting at Dodger Stadium, as the shadows crept across the infield, Charlie Culberson homered — his first of the season — to give the Dodgers a 4-3 walkoff, 10-inning victory over the Colorado Rockies — and their fourth consecutive National League West title.

After going the life of the franchise without making the playoffs in three straight years until 2015, the Dodgers have extended their streak by one. Dave Roberts joined Tommy Lasorda as the only rookie managers ever to lead the Dodgers to a division title.

The victory sets up a National League Division Series matchup with the Washington Nationals, who clinched the NL East on Saturday. Game 1 of the NLDS will be October 7, with the Dodgers narrowly behind the Nationals in determining home-field advantage. The Dodgers own the tiebreaker if the teams finish with identical records.

In a season replete with resolve, the Dodgers rallied from two deficits — and won without leading until after the final pitch was thrown.

In his first MLB start since August 13, Brandon McCarthy made his longest appearance since July 22. Retiring the first six batters he faced on 25 pitches with four strikeouts, McCarthy then allowed two runs in the third inning, but recovered to face the minimum in the fourth and fifth innings.

For the day, McCarthy threw 79 pitches in 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts, and notably walked only one. It was his three consecutive starts walking a career-high five in early August that signaled his need to return to the disabled list.

Following a Howie Kendrick single and Justin Turner double to begin the third, the Dodgers cut the Rockies’ lead in half on Yasiel Puig’s sacrifice fly, but couldn’t convert any of their other eight baserunners in the first six innings into runs.

After Turner singled in the seventh, however, Corey Seager ripped a shot down the right-field line — his team-leading fifth triple — and suddenly the Dodgers were tied, at home, with a direct look at the promised land. Then came the final at-bat …

David Dahl’s ninth-inning home run off Kenley Jansen looked to deny the Dodgers their opportunity to win their way into the NL West title. The immediate consolation, as Dahl’s drive sailed over the fence in right-center, was that San Diego took a 4-3 lead over San Francisco in the bottom of the seventh, extending the possibility of a home clinch.

But with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Seager drilled a 112 mph shot off Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino (aiming to rebound from his five-run, ninth-inning meltdown August 31 against the Dodgers) to tie the game again.

Joc Pederson, batting for Yasiel Puig, walked against Boone Logan. Gonzalez came to the plate and hit a solid opposite-field drive but a can of corn nonetheless, and we would play on.

With two out in the bottom of the 10th, Culberson, who spent much of the season in the minors, no-doubted an 0-1 pitch over the fence in left, and the celebration began for the Dodgers — bot thanks to the Giants, but thanks to themselves.

Puig, Dodgers grieve over José Fernández

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

A number of Dodgers had personal connections with José Fernández, such as Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher and Kiké Hernández, who all played in the Marlins organization with the All-Star right-hander.

But perhaps no one in Los Angeles was closer to the Miami All-Star, who died overnight in a boating accident, than Yasiel Puig.

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