Dodgers roll to win in Torre's final game
Ausmus, Lindsey have special moments in finale
LOS ANGELES -- Sunday was anything but a meaningless game to the Dodgers who played and managed it.
Joe Torre was presented a 3-1 win over the D-backs in his last game, which also provided a send-off to retiring catcher Brad Ausmus, an ERA record for closer Hong-Chih Kuo, double-digit wins for starting pitcher Ted Lilly, Matt Kemp homering in a fifth consecutive game and a .300 batting average for shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"I'm leaving you in very good hands," Torre told fans after the game. "Donnie Mattingly is very special. Thanks for your kindness, your love, your passion, for welcoming me to this town."
And then Mattingly took the microphone from Torre and offered words that might be truer than even he realizes.
"This," he said, "is a tough act to follow."
And he wasn't talking about David Hasselhoff teaming with Steve Perry-wannabe Jameson Moss in a tandem air-guitar version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" on the roof of the visiting dugout.
With the win, the Dodgers finished the season 80-82, their first losing season since 2005 -- the second time in four seasons that they've finished fourth in the National League West -- and at 12 games out of first, their largest losing margin since they were 15 1/2 games back in 2003.
They head into the offseason needing a power bat, starting pitching depth and still have a coaching staff to fill out. In addition to Ausmus, the Dodgers have seven upcoming free agents -- Rod Barajas, Jay Gibbons, Reed Johnson, Hiroki Kuroda, Lilly, Vicente Padilla, Jeff Weaver and have a club option on Scott Podsednik. Kemp made the victory possible by following Andre Ethier's single with a two-run homer in the first inning. Kemp finished the season with team highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (89) and played in every game. He also became the first Dodgers player to homer in five consecutive games since Shawn Green in 2001. Ethier -- who reached base his last eight plate appearances this year -- singled in a run off the bullpen gate in the seventh.
Lilly allowed four hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts and finished the year at 10-12, his eighth consecutive season with at least 10 wins despite receiving the lowest run support in the Major Leagues. Seven of this year's wins came for the Dodgers after his July 31 acquisition from the Cubs. A free agent, he finished with 193 2/3 innings and the Dodgers will try to re-sign him, but he might be out of their price range.
Along with Torre, Ausmus had announced this would be the final game in an 18-year career and got the start behind the plate, where he ranks No. 7 on the all-time list with 1,938 games caught. He was saluted before the game with a video tribute from teammates current and past. In his first at-bat, he doubled down the right-field line and the dugout called for the ball. In his final at-bat, he singled, was replaced by a pinch-runner, received a standing ovation as he left the field and got a hero's welcome in the dugout.
"The fans were extremely nice to me today for a guy who's only been here two years in very limited duty," said Ausmus. "And I really enjoyed today, but I'm ready, I'm ready to move on to non-playing things. It was a good feeling to know that even though I've never been an offensive player that you could say at least you ended your career on a high note. There's an old saying in baseball, you're only as good as your last at-bat. I can stick to that."
After rookie reliever Kenley Jansen lowered his ERA to 0.67 (27 innings) with a scoreless eighth, Kuo got his 12th save with a scoreless ninth, in the process besting the all-time franchise ERA record of his "idol," Eric Gagne, at 1.20, which also is lowest in the Major Leagues for a minimum of 50 innings.
"He's still my idol," Kuo said of Gagne after breaking his record.
Furcal struck out leading off the bottom of the first inning and that was all for him. Torre held Furcal out of earlier games, knowing that the shortstop had one at-bat to waste while still being able to finish with a .300 average.
Arizona scored in the fourth inning on a ground-rule double by Rusty Ryal, who tagged to third on Brandan Allen's flyout and scored on Gerardo Parra's single on an 0-2 pitch.
Torre gave popular 33-year-old rookie John Lindsey a lasting memory, entering him into the game as a pinch-hitter for Lilly even though Lindsey has a broken hand in a cast and will undergo surgery Wednesday. Lindsey -- who finally reached the Major Leagues after 16 Minor League seasons -- then was removed before batting and returned to a hero's welcome in the dugout. Lindsey also accompanied Torre to the plate with the lineup card before the game.
"I had that little plan for the last couple of days, not as much the pinch-hitting part, because I wasn't sure if he was on the DL or not, but once I found out he wasn't, that was a no-brainer," said Torre. "Just to look at this kid and as much as I love the game, know how it's not easy to play it, to see how determined this young man has been all these years to get to the big leagues and then have the misfortune of getting hurt, but that smile never left his face. You just realize how much the game means to certain people."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.