2013 Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Los Angeles Dodgers / Franchise: Los Angeles Dodgers / BR Team Page
Managed by Don Mattingly
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers went into the season prepared to battle with the defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. The team's new owners had shown they were ready to spent serious money on improving the team by pulling a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox the previous August, acquiring 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford and P Josh Beckett and their huge contracts, and then by being very active on the off-season free agent market, their major acquisition being starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu. As a result of the moves, the Dodgers opened the season with a payroll of $217 million, a National League record.
As a result of the moves, starting pitching seemed to be a huge strength for the Dodgers heading into the season, to the point that two above-average starting pitchers who had done well for them in 2012 - Jon Garland and Chris Capuano - were now considered surplus. Garland was traded away to the Colorado Rockies in return for back-up catcher Ramon Hernandez just after the season started, while Capuano bid his time in the bullpen. However, the area of strength soon turned to a major concern, the result of a series of unfortunate incidents. First, Ted Lilly was not fully recovered from shoulder surgery and had to start the season on the disabled list. On April 11th, Greinke plunked Carlos Quentin of the San Diego Padres, starting a huge brawl in which he suffered a broken collarbone, putting him out until after the All-Star break. Capuano was set to replace him, but he had to pull out of his first start, the victim of a sprained left calf, an injury sustained in the same brawl that had put Greinke on the shelf. Then on April 21st, Chad Billingsley had to skip a scheduled start because of discomfort in his elbow, which turned out to be a tear requiring Tommy John surgery. Just like that, the Dodgers were scrambling to find starters to pitch behind Beckett, Ryu and ace Clayton Kershaw.
The injuries, combined with poor production from some of the players counted on to produce runs, particularly OFs Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, meant that the Dodgers were performing well below expectations, with their record still under .500 by mid-May. The pressure was now building around Manager Don Mattingly, who was being prepared as the scapegoat for the team's poor start. Feeling the pressure, he exploded into a rant against team management prior to a game on May 22nd, blaming them for having built an unbalanced team that lacked grit. His outburst was poorly received by observers, who pointed out that a number of his managerial peers had been dealt much worse hands and were dong a lot better. Things turned around in June, as the injuries forced the early promotion of top prospect OF Yasiel Puig from AA. Puig immediately set the baseball world on fire, hitting for over .400 in his first month with excellent power and being named both the NL Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month for June. On July 11th, the Dodgers reached the .500 mark for the first time since April with a 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. While Puig had been the main story, SS Hanley Ramirez had also been outstanding after two early stints on the DL, as he was hitting .409 and slugging .739 after 35 games.
On July 21st, the Dodgers caught the Arizona Diamondbacks for a share of first place, having completed a three-game road sweep of the Washington Nationals to start the second half. That game marked the first time that Crawford, Kemp and Ramirez had been in the starting line-up together all year; all three stars contributed that day, Crawford with three hits, Ramirez with a three-run homer and Kemp with a double and a homer in his first game back from the DL, as the Dodgers won, 9-2. Kemp's return was short-lived, however, as he twisted his ankle in the 9th inning and went straight back to the DL. The Dodgers were undaunted though, winning their 6th straight with a 9th-inning comeback against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 24th. When they won 10 straight road games during this period, it was the most by a Dodgers team since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. They built their lead over the Diamondbacks by going 10-1 in their first 11 games after the All-Star Game, part of a stretch in which they had gone 29-5, their most successful run over such a period since 1953. On August 3rd, a 3-0 win over the Cubs made it 13 straight wins on the road, breaking a franchise record dating back to the 1924 Brooklyn Robins. They shut out the Cubs again, 1-0, the next day, but lost SS Hanley Ramirez, a key element of their resurgence, when he jammed his right shoulder tumbling into the stands at Wrigley Field while attempting to catch a foul ball. Undaunted, the Dodgers extended the streak to 15 wins with a 3-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 5th. It matched a similar winning streak by the 1957 Cincinnati Redlegs, and was two shy of the National League record. They lost their next road contest, but it was only a blip, as a 5-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays on August 10th improved their record since the All-Star break to a sparkling 19-3.
The Dodgers kept on setting records with their second-half performance. On August 12th, they defeated the New York Mets, 4-2, for their 6th straight win since snapping their road winning streak. More than that, the Dodgers had now won 38 of 46 games since June 22nd. To find another team in franchise history with that many wins over the same period, one had to go all the way back to the 1899 Brooklyn Superbas, a team that won the National League title handily after going 41-8 from April 24-June 22. At that point the Dodgers had built a 5 1/2 game lead over the second-place Diamondbacks. Still, the winning continued. On August 16th, they shut out the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0, spoiling the managerial debut of Ryne Sandberg and putting them at 41-8 since June 22nd. It matched the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals for the best 49-game stretch by any team since 1900. With another win the next day, 5-0 behind another great performance by Clayton Kershaw, they had their first ten-game winning streak of the year. Now 42-8 since they began their winning binge, they matched the 1941 New York Yankees and 1942 St. Louis Cardinals for the best 50-game stretch since 1900. Both streaks ended when they lost to the Phils, 3-2, on August 18th, after Ramirez committed a pair of errors in the 9th that led to the winning run. The Dodgers clinched the NL West title on September 19th, when they beat the Diamondbacks, 7-6, with Ramirez contributing a pair of homers. By then, Kemp was finally back from his various injuries, although the Dodgers were being prudent in playing him sparingly before the postseason, while Ramirez still had to miss time regularly with various nagging injuries.
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Clayton Kershaw
- NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Zack Greinke (P)
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Yasiel Puig (OF) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (LhP)
- Molly Knight: The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2015. ISBN 978-1476776293