Career years, comebacks highlight Dodgers' clutch '16

Seager, Kershaw, Jansen deliver in Scully's final season as broadcaster

Career years, comebacks highlight Dodgers' clutch '16

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers won the National League West an unprecedented fourth consecutive season, but for an even bigger reason, 2016 was an unforgettable year.

From the first game until the last, it was the final season of legendary announcer Vin Scully, who has been broadcasting Dodgers games since Harry Truman was president. The Dodgers won with a Charlie Culberson walk-off in Scully's emotional final home broadcast, but they fell two wins shy of reaching the World Series in what would have truly been a fitting sendoff into retirement for the Hall of Famer.

In contrast to the end of the Scully Era, the season ushered in a couple new ones. In his first full season in the Major Leagues, Corey Seager unleashed a Rookie of the Year campaign for the ages, while Dave Roberts won NL Manager of the Year and also was the first rookie Dodgers manager to win a division title since Tommy Lasorda in 1977.

Under Roberts, the Dodgers displayed the grit to overcome an eight-game deficit and 32 stints on the disabled list -- including ace Clayton Kershaw's, which lasted 2 1/2 months -- for a fourth consecutive 90-plus-win season.

They blended experience and youth on an ever-changing roster (55 players, 31 of them pitchers). They patched a decimated starting rotation, although that ultimately doomed them in the NL Championship Series. Their deep bullpen, led by NL Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen, set franchise records for innings pitched and appearances, keeping them in games when starters couldn't, including the epic Game 5 clincher of the NL Division Series in Washington.

Jansen's huge relief outing

With four sluggers -- Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal, Seager and Joc Pederson -- hitting at least 25 homers, the Dodgers mounted 46 comeback wins, the most in the NL.

Contrary to their self-destructive NLCS against the Cubs, the Dodgers played solid fundamentally this year, ranking third in the NL in fielding percentage and generally running the bases intelligently, if not aggressively.

It's been 28 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. While this club was resilient and determined, it showed against the Cubs it wasn't ready to take that final step to the Fall Classic. The Dodgers struggled on the road (38-43) and against left-handed starting pitching (22-24), two trends that continued in the postseason. Here's a look back at the Top 5 Dodgers storylines of 2016:

1. It was a Hollywood ending for Scully's Dodger Stadium farewell, an extra-inning walk-off homer to clinch on Sept. 25. The hero was journeyman Culberson, beating one of his former clubs (Colorado) and eliminating another (San Francisco) from NL West title contention. The ending symbolized that on any given day, virtually any of the 40 active players could step up and win a game.

2. The Dodgers advanced to the NLCS with an epic 4-3 win over Washington in 10 innings of a winner-take-all Game 5 in the NLDS on Oct. 13. Clayton Kershaw, who started Game 4 on short rest, got the final two outs for his first MLB save, relieving Jansen, who threw a career-high 51 pitches over 2 1/3 innings. Julio Urias became the youngest postseason pitcher in 46 years and the youngest Dodgers pitcher ever in the postseason.

Kershaw earns save

3. Justin Turner called out Grandal in the dugout for a baserunning mistake on June 16, a carryover from a spontaneous postgame meeting Turner had with Roberts after a series loss in San Francisco four days earlier. The Dodgers lost the night of the argument, but then reeled off a six-game win streak that seemed to signal an awakening.

Must C: Dodgers' clutch comeback

4. Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda entered the season with tremendous upside, but he also came with some real risk after a physical revealed "irregularities" in his right elbow before he signed with the Dodgers. Throwing six scoreless innings and adding a home run in his April 6 debut set a reassuring tone that continued throughout the season, though. Maeda proved to be the rotation workhorse, making a smooth and consistent transition to the Major Leagues.

Maeda deals, homers in debut

5. Polarizing focal point Yasiel Puig was demoted to the Minor Leagues in August as a wake-up call for his undisciplined approach. A side benefit was the statement to the clubhouse that no player was bigger than the team. Josh Reddick, acquired to replace Puig, struggled early, creating playing time for rookie Andrew Toles, whose dramatic, game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning of the Aug. 31 nightcap of a Colorado doubleheader prevented a series sweep when the race was still close.

Toles' go-ahead grand slam

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