A new year but same result for Dodgers

A new year but same result for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had an exceptional season, but as management so delicately put it, a below-average final week.

In other words, the road to the World Series still goes through Philadelphia and the Dodgers haven't figured out how to navigate it.

For the second consecutive year, they were eliminated from the National League Championship Series in five games, outplayed in virtually all aspects of the game, appearing outmatched by a club they beat four times during the regular season.

That said, they captured consecutive division titles for the first time since 1977-78, made the postseason three times in four years for the first time since 1963-66, had the best record in the National League for the first time since 1983 and had their best home record since 1991, including a record-setting 13-0 to start the season.

In a difficult economic climate, the Dodgers led the Major Leagues in attendance. General manager Ned Colletti, after trimming $20 million off the payroll in the winter, was able to make the necessary in-season moves for a successful stretch run and was rewarded with a long-term contract extension, the club refusing to define "long-term."

This year's Dodgers had a flair for the dramatic, leading the league with 12 walk-off victories. They led the league in team batting average (.270) and staff ERA (3.41).

They had to overcome Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension, three injuries to Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda and disappointing offensive seasons from Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin.

Record: 95-67, first place in NL West

Defining moment: It was pretty much the same as a year ago. Closer Jonathan Broxton suffering a mini-meltdown in a pressure situation against the Phillies in the NLCS. A year ago, it was a pinch-homer by Matt Stairs. This time, Broxton pitched Stairs too carefully, hit a batter, then served up the walk-off double to Jimmy Rollins. Instead of the series being tied, 2-2, the loss put the Dodgers on the verge of elimination and they were blown out in Game 5.

What went right: Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had breakthrough seasons. Ethier led the club with 31 homers, 106 RBIs and 160 games played. He led the Major Leagues with six walk-off hits, four of them home runs. Kemp became the first player in franchise history to have 25 homers, 30 steals, 100 RBIs, a .295 average and 95 runs scored in the same season. Randy Wolf was the most consistent starter in the rotation, Clayton Kershaw showed he's on the verge of stardom, the deep bullpen became manager Joe Torre's most potent weapon, Chad Billingsley and Orlando Hudson had All-Star first halves and Juan Pierre kept the club competitive in the absence of Ramirez. Colletti's in-season acquisitions -- George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard, Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland and Jim Thome -- all made key contributions in the stretch run and into the postseason.

What went wrong: Ramirez's 50-game suspension put a cloud over the first half of the season, even though the club remained in first place without him. Furcal never regained his pre-surgery ability, leaving the offensive burden on the middle of the lineup. Kuroda suffered through an injury-plagued season. Billingsley scuffled through the last third of the season. Martin still hasn't found the bat he showed in his first two seasons.

Biggest surprise: After bouncing around the Minor Leagues for eight years and never advancing beyond Double-A, Ronald Belisario spent most of Spring Training in Minor League camp, but he somehow made the Opening Day roster and became a workhorse, appearing in 69 games (even while missing a month with an elbow strain) with a 2.04 ERA.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.