Crawford, Gonzalez, Haren Picking Up The Slack as Dodgers Go to SF

The hot streak that vaulted the Dodgers from a distant second to a solid division lead and competing for the league’s best record began in San Francisco late in July, and this weekend they return for three more games at A T & T Park, hoping to show the Giants that they are the best in the west. While the team continues to have a zero offense from behind the plate, question marks in the bullpen, inconsistent infield defense, and a slumping Yasiel Puig, the solid play from Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Justin Turner, Carl Crawford and Dan Haren of late has solidified some major question marks. Will they continue all this into the post season?

The biggest surprise as I see it, has been Carl Crawford, who, after his usual array of injuries and missed games, sunk to a low of .230 on Aug.3. Since then, he has hit .406,

raising his average to .289, and he has scored 22 runs in 32 games played over that period. Turner has been a phenomenal pickup, having by far the best season of his career, and with his play has forced the empty uniform non-manager Don Mattingly to consider him a regular, playing him most every game, at one position or another. His .330 average is almost 60 points above his career average. Kemp, who may or may not have been close to being traded, depending on who you listen
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to, since his late May benching and subsequent return due to injuries sustained by others, has been solid at the plate and in right field, and in the dawg days of September, has hit .323. Despite so many cheerleaders calling for Clayton Kershaw to be voted National League MVP, I think the team’s MVP is really Adrian Gonzalez. He’s had a phenomenal season, driving in clutch runs game after game, and with 102 RBI and the injury to Giancarlo Stanton, he looks like the guy now to beat for the league RBI title.

At a time when the Dodgers’ strength, starting pitching, had become a weakness, with Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zack Greinke all having nagging to serious health issues, and the team going out and acquiring, and then having to rely upon, third-tier starters like Roberto “Fausto Carmona” Hernandez and Kevin Correia, the resurgence of Dan Haren has been a tremendous boost to the team. I’ve written a lot about him this season, but

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right now all I can do is give him the praise he deserves, for stepping up and providing his best pitching in years, just when the team needed it the most. After a bad loss, 8-2 to the lowly Cubs, on August 1, where he gave up six earned runs in little over four innings, he was 8-9, with an ERA of 4.76. Since then, he's won five of six decisions, raising his below .500 won-lost record to an
impressive 13-10, and lowering his ERA to under 4.00. He’s won his last three starts, allowing a single earned run over 19 innings pitched.

With Kershaw, and Greinke and Ryu apparently injury-free, with Haren as the number four starter, the Dodgers’ rotation can again stack up with that of any team they figure to see in the post season. I wish I had as much faith in the bullpen. While J.P.Howell has been great, the rest of the set-up guys, primarily Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright, Brandon League, and Chris Perez, have been worse than inconsistent, and generally unreliable. Of late, besides Howell, a couple of young guys with scant experience, have done the best work, and should see more action in key spots. I’m talking about Pedro Baez and Carlos Frias, and I have more faith in them than in Wilson, Wright, Perez or League, and I hope

the empty uniform sees that as well, going into the stretch run. And PLEASE - no more Kevin Correia EVER when a game is on the line!

An then there is Yasiel Puig. The talented but erratic outfielder has been in and out of the lineup, batting first, second, sixth, seventh, and nothing has helped snap him out of his,… his,… sophomore jinx? At the end of July, Puig was hitting .315, but
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in August he hit only .216, and so far in September, .154. His last home run was July 31, and he’s driven in a total of five runs over his last 33 games. Hence, Joc Pederson has gotten a few starts in center field, but he has shown that he is not yet quite ready for regular duty against major league pitching.

The Dodgers will face one of the NL’s best pitching staffs this weekend, beginning tonight with Madison Bumgarner, the Giant’s ace, and Puig will be in center, batting leadoff, followed by Turner, playing second base in place of Dee Gordon. The Dodgers need an opening series win, for momentum, and to avoid seeing their West Division lead drop to a single game.

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