Ethier Wins "Clutch Performer Of The Year" Award

The Dodgers announced yesterday that Andre Ethier won the "2009 MLB Clutch Performer of the Year Award Presented by Pepsi," an honor voted on by fans.  From the Dodger press release:

Ethier led the Majors with six walk-off hits, including a Major League record four walk-off home runs (tied with Jimmie Foxx in 1940 and Roy Sievers in 1957): June 6th against the Phillies in the 12th inning; June 29th against Colorado in the 13th inning; August 6th vs. Atlanta in the 9th; and September 15th against the Pirates in the 13th.  Ethier has a Major League-leading nine walk-off hits since the beginning of the 2008 season, and his six in 2009 are the most in a single-season by any player since at least 1974.

The left-handed slugger collected six multi-home run games on the year, tied for second with Philadelphia ’s Ryan Howard behind Albert Pujols (10) of the Cardinals.  The Arizona State product became just the fourth Dodger in franchise history to amass at least 40 doubles and 30 home runs in the same season, joining Babe Herman (1930), Raul Mondesi (1997) and Eric Karros (1999).  On June 26th against Seattle , Andre drove in a career-high six runs and compiled his first career three-homer game, becoming the ninth Dodger in franchise history to accomplish the feat.

Here is a recap of Ethier's six walk-off hits in 2009:

  • May 2:  On Dodger Thoughts night at the ballpark, not only did I get a copy of Jon Weisman's book, but also got treated to a walk-off win.  Tied at one in the 10th inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out, when Ethier launched a single off the wall to bring home the 2-1 win over the Padres.  This was the ninth straight home win to open the season, a streak that would extend to a record 13 straight before the Manny Ramirez suspension ended the fun four days later.
    Ethier Walk-Off: "Single," one RBI
  • June 5:  Down 3-2 to the Phillies, closer Brad Lidge got the first two outs easily, but then ran into some trouble.  He got two strikes on each of Casey Blake and James Loney, but they managed to reach base via hit and walk, respectively.  Russell Martin then grounded to Pedro Feliz, but the third baseman gave the Dodgers new life by booting the ball.  Ethier came up and doubled into the corner, giving the Dodgers a thrilling 4-3 win.
    Ethier Walk-Off:  Double, two RBI.
  • June 6:  The very next day, Brad Lidge blew another save, but this time to Rafael Furcal, who hit a game-tying pinch hit home run in the ninth inning.  The game remained tied at two until the 12th inning, when Ethier slammed a two-out rocket to dead center off Chad Durbin for his second straight walk-off.
    Ethier Walk-Off:  Home Run, one RBI.
  • June 29:  After a typically solid Randy Wolf start (two runs in six innings), the Dodgers threw a picket fence of relievers at the Rockies.  Seven different relievers each pitched one inning, allowing just three baserunners while striking out 13, to keep the game tied into the bottom of the 13th.  Blake led off the inning with a single, and Ethier ended it with a shot into the all-you-can-eat pavilion in right field, for a 4-2 Dodger victory, one of 14 against the Rockies in 2009.
    Ethier Walk-Off:  Home Run, two RBI.
  • August 6:  Down 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers had to face Braves closer Rafael Soriano, who came into the game with a 1.80 ERA, and opposing batters were hitting just .157/.234/.221 against him.  A pair of singles by Juan Pierre and Furcal gave Ethier yet another opportunity to come through.  After taking two balls, Ethier hit a drive to right field that just cleared the wall, sneding Dodger fans into a frenzy yet again. As I wrote in the game recap:  "After Ethier hit the home run, Vin Scully didn't speak for 45 seconds, letting the game speak for itself.  Sometimes, less is more."
    Ethier Walk-Off:  Home Run, three RBI.
  • September 15Matt Kemp's game-tying RBI single allowed the Dodgers to send the game with the Pirates into extra innings.  After three scoreless innings of extra-inning relief by James McDonald (you know, the guy whose 2.72 ERA and 3.41 FIP as a reliever are woefully underappreciated), Ronald Belisario gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th inning, only his second run given up in 18 appearances since returning from the disabled list.  Never fear, "Endre" is here.  With one out and Furcal on first base, lefty Phil Dumatrait was summoned from the bullpen to face Ethier, who struggled against lefties all season.  However, Ethier at Dodger Stadium was a different story, hitting .305/.376/.610 against southpaws wearing the home whites.  He came through yet again, launching a towering fly ball that reached the seats in right, his fourth walk-off dinger of the season.
    Ethier Walk-Off:  Home Run, two RBI.

There were six "MLB Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month" awards given out this season, but Ethier did not win any of them.  He was a candidate in June, but lost the fan vote to Tim Lincecum of the Giants.

It was an amazing season for the 27-year old Ethier.  He came to the plate in the ninth inning or later representing either the tying or go-ahead run 42 times this season.  All he did was slam five doubles and four home runs, and hit a whopping .448/.619/1.034 in those situations.  Congratulations, Endre.  This was a well-deserved award.

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