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2015 Dodgers review: Justin Ruggiano, the stretch drive pickup

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Ruggiano started his season in Seattle, got sent down to Tacoma, and eventually made his way back to his original organization, and made his mark as one of the most productive final-month pickups in recent Dodgers history.

What went right

The Dodgers acquired Ruggiano, who was originally drafted by Los Angeles in 2004, in a minor league transaction on Aug. 31 for cash considerations. He had been in Triple-A for over two months after hitting just .214/.321/.357 in 36 games with Seattle.

Ruggiano has always hit lefties in his career — .266/.331/.505 with a .360 wOBA and 129 wRC+ against southpaws in his career at the time of the trade, even including .263/.369./474 in 2015 in his limited time with Seattle, where he otherwise struggled — so his planned role for the Dodgers was clear.

It worked out perfectly, with Ruggiano starting for the Dodgers the first 13 times they faced a left-handed starter, sitting against a southpaw only once, on the final day of the regular season.

Ruggiano was 15-for-45 with three home runs, four doubles, a triple and three walks in just 49 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, hitting .333/.388/.667 against southpaws.

His overall line with the Dodgers was .291/.350/.618, and despite just 60 plate appearances was tied for the team lead in September (and October) in home runs (four), tied for second in RBI (12) and extra-base hits (nine), and third on the team in runs scored (12).

Ruggiano drove in a run in five straight games from Sept. 3-11, tying Joc Pederson for the longest RBI streak by a Dodger in 2015. What makes Ruggiano's streak even more impressive is that he only started two of those five games.

Slugging .600 doesn't happen too often with the Dodgers, even in a limited number of plate appearances. Ruggiano is one of just 12 to do so (minimum 50 PA) since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, with all of the seasons coming in the last 35 years.

Ruggiano's strong stretch drive earned him a spot on the Dodgers' roster in the National League Division Series, which was a pleasant surprise for the 33-year-old.

"How would I have seen this coming? I'm in Tacoma, I have the worst travel schedule that I've ever had in my whole life. My back hurt on the buses, my back hurt on the plane," Ruggiano said. "There's no way I could have ever seen this happening. It's kind of been a dream month."

What went wrong

Ruggiano was 1-for-10 with a hit by pitch against right-handed pitchers, though the one hit was a grand slam against old friend Allen Webster on Sept. 11 in Arizona.

Ruggiano was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the NLDS, with all three strikeouts in his three plate appearances against Mets lefties (Jonathon Niese once, Steven Matz twice).

2015 particulars

Age: 33

Stats: .291/.350/.618, .409 wOBA, 4 HR, 12 RBI in 21 games, 0.6 rWAR, 0.7 fWAR

Salary: $2,505,000, of which the Dodgers were responsible for roughly $155,000.

Game of the year

Ruggiano hit a two-run pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to break a tie against the Padres in San Diego on Sept. 4, sparking a five-run inning in an 8-4 Dodgers win.

Roster status

The Dodgers sent Ruggiano outright to Triple-A on Nov. 5, but he declined the assignment, instead electing free agency.