The Dodgers were eliminated with Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Giants, ending an attempted run at the postseason that, while exhilarating, was too little, too late. But despite facing long odds in the final week of the season, they sure made it close, seemingly.
Chris Capuano was pitching Tuesday night with a sore shoulder that stemmed from an injury that couldn't possibly have been made up. He hit himself a few days ago with a weighted donut during batting practice. But Dodgers pitchers could use all the batting practice they can get, as they have two hits in their last 64 at-bats, with 27 strikeouts.
Capuano allowed a home run to Buster Posey in the first inning, which is understandable since the Giants catcher will likely win the National League MVP. Capuano then gave up a home run to Joaquin Arias, who will not win the MVP but at least he was once traded for Alex Rodriguez, so there's that.
Capuano was pulled after just three innings, a disappointing end to a season that started off so promising. Capuano in his first 17 starts was 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA, and he struck out 22.2% of batters faced and averaged 6.25 innings per start. But in his last 16 starts was just 3-9 with a 4.99 ERA, struck out 17.2% of batters faced and averaged 5.75 innings per outing.
Matt Kemp, who has killed Barry Zito in his career, struck out in his first two at-bats against him, then with runners on second and third base in the fifth inning bounced back to Zito to end the inning.
The Giants extended their lead to 4-1 in the fifth when Marco Scutaro doubled in Arias and Angel Pagan. Scutaro his Madlocked his way into hitting .363/.386/.475 in 60 games for the Giants, outhitting any of the three starting position players acquired this season by the Dodgers. In addition, Pagan has hit .309/.356/.506 in 41 games since the suspension of Melky Cabrera, helping to fill that void for San Francisco.
The Dodgers found out early in the game that the Cardinals had lost to the Reds, the first of four things Los Angeles needed to go its way to force a one-game playoff for the second wild card. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound Wednesday as the ultimate safety blanket, a win by the Dodgers on Tuesday would have made them tantalizingly close.
The seventh inning seemed like the one to make it happen. Down three runs with Andre Ethier on first base, A.J. Ellis worked Guillermo Mota for a long at-bat that ended with a two-run home run, the 13th of the season for Ellis to add to his professional career high.
One out later Mark Ellis hit a ball that rolled to the wall in center, putting himself in scoring position with a doub...wait, is he going to third? Ellis was thrown out at third by a mile, then Murphy's Law was enforced as Shane Victorino, batting left-handed (where he was hitting .230/.297/.330 this season), tripled to right field, a ball that would have score Ellis for the tying run. Instead, Victorino was the potential tying run on third with two outs for Kemp, but Kemp struck out on, of all things, a slider away, an at-bat that frustrated Kemp so much that he threw his bat in disgust.
Thanks to yeoman's work from the bullpen - six innings, five hits, two runs allowed, two walks, nine strikeouts - the Dodgers remained in the game, and entered the ninth inning down only a run. Ethier, facing lefty Jeremy Affeldt, singled to open the inning. A.J. Ellis, one of the hottest hitters on the team, was asked to sacrifice but fell behind 0-2 trying to do so, then struck out against Sergio Romo.
Eventual Pinch runner Dee Gordon eventually stole second, but after pinch hitter Bobby Abreu flied out to left. Mark Ellis had a chance to atone for his baserunning mistake two innings earlier, but his soft liner to center hung up in the air long enough for Pagan to catch it for the final out to dash the Dodgers' postseason hopes.
When clinging to odds of making the postseason have lingered under 10% for more than a week, the byproduct of a September offensive malaise, the Dodgers missing the playoffs was the overwhelmingly likely ending. But that doesn't make it any easier when the final nail is put in the coffin.
"Everything comes to a screeching halt," manager Don Mattingly said after the game. "To not have the opportunity to move forward is painful. I felt the guys were totally invested. I'm just really proud of them and we're going to learn from this."
“I wish we would have played the way we did the last 10 days a little earlier,” Adrian Gonzalez said. “We should have been better for sure.”
A lot of people wish that.