Swing shift: Gonzalez delivers a walk-off winner

Swing shift: Gonzalez delivers a walk-off winner

Swing shift: Gonzalez delivers a walk-off winner
LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez's career with the Dodgers started off beautifully with a three-run homer in his first at-bat last weekend. Since then, it's been a struggle for the slugger and his new team, which had gone a disappointing 3-5 since the megadeal that brought him over.

On Sunday, he proved just why the organization coveted him so much when he hit a walk-off, two-run double in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a much-needed 5-4 win against the D-backs.

"We kept trying to grind it out and an opportunity presented itself," Gonzalez said.

For the first baseman, he came into Sunday's game prepared for that moment after a rough start to his Dodgers career, following the big trade with Red Sox.

Just-recalled Bobby Abreu struck out leading off the ninth, leaving the Dodgers two outs from another frustrating loss that would leave them 5 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West.

But a single by Mark Ellis and a walk by Shane Victorino put two on to bring up Gonzalez, who quickly fell behind 0-2 to closer J.J. Putz.

"I got ahead of Adrian there and tried to elevate to try and get him to swing and miss, try to get him to chase and I just didn't get it up," said Putz, who entered with streaks of 19 successful saves and 24 scoreless innings.

Gonzalez drove a third straight fastball from Putz into the right-field corner, allowing Ellis to score easily and Victorino, who had been thrown out the night before at the plate, to slide in for the win. The duo atop the lineup showed how important they are to the team's success down the road batting ahead of such a dangerous middle of the order consisting of Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier.

"Hopefully, this is the start of it," said Ellis, who combined with Victorino went just 4-for-24 atop the lineup in the series' first three games. "If me and Vic do our jobs, maybe we can get on a roll a little bit."

Gonzalez, who entered the game batting .182 since the trade, opened the afternoon 0-for-3. He struck out twice and the usually mild-mannered first baseman got into it with home-plate umpire Eric Cooper after a called third strike in the sixth.

But then in the eighth with one on, a routine fly ball by Gonzalez to left-center was lost in the sun and it dropped in between outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young for a double. Nothing would come out of that double -- Kemp grounded out immediately afterward to end that threat, slamming his batting helmet to the ground in frustration -- but it was the sort of hit Gonzalez and many of his teammates said he needed to bust out of his slump.

"When you're having a tough couple of days like that, you can get a little mentality like, 'When are they going to fall?' " he said. "Then something like that happens, here it is. A hit like that can make me relax a little more. It's great for your confidence."

For the Dodgers, they are hoping this sort of win will have a similar effect on their confidence and chemistry moving forward.

Prior to Saturday's win, manager Don Mattingly talked about how all the team needed was one win to get going and the rest will follow. That first win came that night and Sunday's victory had the players in the clubhouse hopeful more will come.

"It's just nice to have a Sunday where we get to leave and go to dinner happy and feeling good and excited," said Chris Capuano, who was in line to get the loss after giving up a pair of homers and three runs in five innings. "We're still in this thing."

Kemp got things started with a solo shot in the second inning, just his sixth homer since hitting 12 in April and first since Aug. 8. But the D-backs answered right back with a solo homer by John McDonald in the third and a two-run homer by Miguel Montero in the fourth.

The Dodgers cut the deficit in the sixth before both teams traded runs in the seventh. Down by one, it looked as if the team was on its way to another frustrating loss.

With the win, Los Angeles now heads into a series against the Padres with some confidence and a rocky week following the trade behind the team.

"Any walk-off is a big win, especially this time in September," said Kemp.

After August ended with a team meeting called by Mattingly and another meeting the following day just for the newly added players, September is starting to have a much better feel to it as the players acquired from Boston have shown what they are capable of doing.

Josh Beckett was hosed down by Aaron Harang in celebration after Saturday night's stellar pitching performance and Kemp treated Gonzalez to a bucket of water to the head after the game, instead of the typical shaving cream pie.

"I don't want to mess his eyesight up. His eyes would be burning," the team's vocal leader said with a laugh.

That eyesight will be pretty important over the next 27 games as the Dodgers attempt to catch the Giants in the West or snag one of the two Wild Card spots.

"We're 2-0 in September," Kemp said. "We started the month off right."

Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.