Five things that changed Dodgers' season
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers have held first place since May 30, so there have certainly been more factors that led to their third consecutive National League West title than just Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, as vital as the two-headed ace was all season.
Looking over the key developments of this year, here are five factors that changed the season:
1. Series sweep of the Giants
From mid-July until late August, the Dodgers' division lead was stuck in a narrow range, with a 3 1/2-game maximum. The Giants came to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series on Aug. 31 with a chance to turn the West into a dogfight. But the Dodgers won the opener in 14 innings, Greinke won the second game and Kershaw completed the sweep with a 15-strikeout masterpiece that provided some breathing room. Within a week, the inspired Dodgers had an 8 1/2-game lead over the sagging Giants.
2. Dependable Adrian Gonzalez
A year earlier, his standout season was marked by an RBI title, a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award, even if he was overshadowed by NL MVP Award winner Kershaw. Once again in 2015, though, Gonzalez has been the most reliable player on the field day after day. He will either lead or finish second in just about every offensive category that doesn't require running speed. Perhaps more importantly, on a club that was particularly brittle, he was his usual durable self, missing only 10 games thus far without a DL stint.
3. Joc Pederson's first half
After the winter trade of Matt Kemp, it was pretty well assumed that a starting job would be Pederson's to lose. But nobody expected the first half that followed, offensively and defensively. He became the first Dodgers rookie position player to start an All-Star Game, as well as the first Dodgers rookie since Hideo Nomo in 1995 and the first rookie position player to earn the selection since Mike Piazza in 1993. The Home Run Derby runner-up became the first Dodgers rookie to hit home runs in five consecutive games and tied Roy Campanella (1950), Shawn Green (2001) and Kemp (2010) for the most consecutive games in a single season with a homer in Dodgers history. Unfortunately, the league caught up to Pederson in the second half and he lost playing time to Enrique Hernandez.
4. Corey Seager's September
The Twitterverse was clamoring early in the season for the immediate promotion of 21-year-old Seager to replace the struggling Jimmy Rollins, and it paid off. When Seager finally arrived as a September callup, he looked like the real deal, ready for anything, reaching base in each of his first 21 games started. One cautionary stat ia a significant number of fielding errors, but his calling card will be the bat, as he demonstrated a patient eye and an ability to square up pitches against righties and lefties.
5. Brett Anderson/Andre Ethier rebound
If there are two players that gave the Dodgers more than expected, they would be fifth starter Anderson and "fourth" outfielder Ethier. Both contributed more than even management expected, as Anderson rose to a solid third starter after season-ending injuries to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, while Ethier delivered his best season since 2012 and stayed healthy, which presumed starters Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford didn't do.