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Thursday, September 12, 2013
Adrian Gonzalez has been the anchor

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES -- A month or so ago, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he considered Adrian Gonzalez his team's MVP, a stance that's becoming difficult to defend from a statistical standpoint.

Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig all have higher WARs despite playing in a fraction of the games Gonzalez has (and, remember, WAR is a counting stat).

Adrian Gonzalez
Nick Punto, left, and Yasiel Puig run out to congratulate teammate Adrian Gonzalez after his winning hit in the 10th inning to beat the Giants on Thursday night.
But in addition to hitting, hitting for power, throwing, fielding and running, there's a sixth tool that might be the most crucial of them all: staying on the field. Some people consider staying healthy a skill, and Gonzalez has been a master of it.

Since he established himself as an every-day player in 2006, Gonzalez has never missed more than six games in a season. With the rain of injuries the Dodgers endured in the season's first few months, that ability has been crucial to this team's chances. It became clear again Thursday, when Ramirez had to be pulled once again because of a tight hamstring.

"I think you look back at the season and you think that Adrian's really been the glue that kept us going, kind of kept us hanging around," Mattingly said after Gonzalez drove in the winning run in the 10th inning of the Dodgers' 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday. "It could have been a lot worse with all the injuries. Adrian was able to kind of steady the ship almost and just keep us around."

As usual, Gonzalez is hitting better with runners in scoring position (.326) than he is without runners in scoring position (.285). He has long been a master of the clutch hit, largely because he simplifies in pressure situations. He lined a single just past diving shortstop Brandon Crawford to drive in Carl Crawford from second base Thursday.

The Dodgers have enjoyed eight walk-off wins at Dodger Stadium this season, and Gonzalez has been in the middle of many of them. He has enjoyed them so much, he'd like to do it again in a few weeks. Gonzalez has been to the playoffs only once, in 2006, when he batted .357 for the San Diego Padres.

"That's one of the reasons why we want home-field advantage in the playoffs, because you get an extra edge," Gonzalez said.