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Solid pitching helps Dodgers stay competitive

Despite having offensive stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier on the disabled list, the Dodgers are in first place in the NL West because of outstanding work by the pitchers.

July 08, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Chris Capuano is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA this season.
Chris Capuano is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA this season. (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

PHOENIX — The Dodgers lineup Saturday night probably didn't cause Arizona Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill to tremble in fear.

Elian Herrera was leading off. Luis Cruz was batting second, Jerry Hairston Jr.third and James Loney cleanup.

Not including the pitcher's spot, the lineup was the 72nd different one put together this season by Manager Don Mattingly.

"Really?" Mattingly said.

The game Saturday night was the Dodgers' 86th.

Despite this alarming absence of regularity, the Dodgers began the game as the top team in the National League West.

If told during spring training that the season would unfold the way it has, General Manager Ned Colletti said he would have thought, "It's somewhat improbable."

Dodgers players have spent a combined 580 games on the disabled list, counting Saturday.

Matt Kemp has sat out more games (48) than he has played (38). Second baseman Mark Ellis sat out 42 games.

Now, Kemp and Andre Ethier on are the disabled list together.

"That's baseball and that's teamwork," Colletti said.

What has helped the Dodgers minimize the effect of their inconsistent lineup has been the consistency of their pitching.

The Dodgers rank second in the majors in earned-run average (3.26) and opponents' batting average (.234).

Clayton Kershaw is 6-5, but has a 2.91 ERA. Chris Capuano, who was arguably one of the top free-agent pickups in all of baseball, is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA.

The bullpen has stabilized and excelled similarly.

Dodgers relievers began Saturday with a scoreless streak of 102/3 innings. In their 32 games, the Dodgers posted a 2.10 ERA in their last 32 games.

Closer Kenley Jansen has 15 saves and a 2.11 ERA. Ronald Belisario, a candidate for comeback player of the year, has a 0.95 ERA in 28 appearances.

"You always build it around pitching," Colletti said.

But there was another consideration when assembling the roster over the off-season.

"When you're in the National League, you build it around versatility, too," Colletti said.

Tony Gwynn Jr.has played all three outfield positions. Adam Kennedy has started at second base and third base.

Hairston has started at second base, third base and left field.

The Dodgers also put a premium on versatility when looking for players to call up from the minor leagues.

Herrera has started at second base, third base and all three outfield positions. Cruz has started at second base and shortstop.

"We're kind of able to match up a little bit," Mattingly said.

Mattingly said he has also made a conscious effort to offer regular days off to veterans Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera.

Ellis thinks the inability to play the same players on a near-daily basis was a reason behind the Dodgers' recent slide, when they lost 11 of 12 games.

"So many guys were coming in and out of the lineup, it was bound to happen at some point," said Ellis, who was on the disabled list recovering from a leg injury during that stretch.

Colletti credited Mattingly for helping the players remain on task.

"The guys went through a couple tough stretches," Colletti said. "All through it, their efforts never waned. Their focus never stopped."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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