Here’s one way sure way to tell if your favorite team is in a rebuilding phase: on the final weekend of the season, they introduce the minor league player of the year and the starting shortstop and it’s the same guy.
The future met the present in just that way Saturday at Dodger Stadium where Chin-Lung Hu picked up some hardware before the game, then collected two hits, two runs and a key sacrifice bunt during it, helping the Dodgers to a 6-5 win in 10 innings over the San Francisco Giants.
The winning run came home when Luis Gonzalez singled with one out to drive in Andy LaRoche, who beat out an infield hit and was bunted into scoring position by Hu.
The victory assured the Dodgers will finish with a winning record for the seventh time in eight seasons while Grady Little notched his 11th consecutive winning season as a manager.
Like Hu, Little has achieved some of his success at the minor league level. It’s unlikely the manager will ever see a minor league dugout again, however, and you might soon be able to say the same thing about Hu.
A week after being thrust into the lineup in place of the injured Rafael Furcal, the 23-year-old rookie is batting .269 with two home runs. And he has hits in four of his six starts, including his first career triple Saturday, which started the Dodgers on the way back from a 4-0 deficit.
Despite being new to the majors, Hu didn’t have to bother introducing himself around. Five other players in Saturday’s starting lineup also spent at least six weeks this season with the Dodgers’ triple-A club in Las Vegas. And with the exception of left fielder Delwyn Young, all contributed at least one hit, with four of the six adding either a run or an RBI as well.
Right fielder Matt Kemp also threw out a runner at the plate in the third inning when the Giants threatened to blow the game open and second baseman Wilson Valdez avoided an out at the plate, kicking the ball from catcher Eliezer Alfonzo’s glove to score in the third.
Catcher Russell Martin chipped in with a home run and Juan Pierre had a pair of hits, three RBIs and his 64th stolen base.
The night didn’t go as well for 23-year-old starter Chad Billingsley, who got only four outs while watching the Giants jump to 4-0 second-inning lead. Control was a problem for Billingsley, who walked three and missed the strike zone with half his 54 pitches.
Saturday’s attendance of 51,983 pushed the season figure to a Dodger Stadium-record 3,807,825 with one game to play.