At least Dodgers shortstop Luis Cruz isn't hitting fifth. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The good news for the Dodgers on Monday was Luis Cruz and his .140 batting average was not batting fifth. And that’s pretty much it for the good news.
As has been the case for weeks, the Dodgers’ daily lineup is a thing of beauty. In a Salvador Dali, turn-the-head-sideways kind of way.
Yasiel Puig was moved into the cleanup spot Monday, which leaves Nick Punto and Mark Ellis as the tablesetters. Ellis, battling a sore groin, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Punto is in a two-for-15 skid.
And batting fifth to protect Puig is Jerry Hairston Jr., who has driven in seven runs this season. Or three less than Puig did last week.
Of course, Manager Don Mattingly is piecing lineups together these days with four starters injured and unavailable: Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers have used the disabled list 19 times this season.
“A couple and you say, `That’s part of the deal,’ ” Mattingly said. “But this has to be close to record breaking. I can’t imagine being around a team that’s had this many guys. It feels like it’s kind of adding on after awhile.”
So Mattingly piecemeals his starting eight every day, and not the way he planned when the Dodgers left spring training.
“If we can pitch and do everything perfect, we have a chance to win our share,” Mattingly said. “You try to hold on and you try to keep fighting and you hope to get your troops back. Get the cavalry. We have to remain hopeful and keep trying to steal games.”
Yep, it has come to that for this current edition of the Dodgers. If they can do everything perfect, they can steal some games.
The troops should start coming back this week. Ramirez (hamstring) is already off the DL and could be back within four or five days. A.J. Ellis (oblique) could return by Friday. Kemp (hamstring) is also eligible then, but may need a few more days. The return of Crawford (hamstring) is less certain.
Mattingly said he regretted saying Sunday that Kemp had suffered a slight setback.
“Pretty much yesterday was a really good day,” he said. “Then when they started pushing to the red line, he felt a little something. It tells us we’re really close with him. It’s just going to take another few days.”
Meanwhile, Mattingly does what he can. Monday was his 60th different lineup in 63 games. That should be hard to do, but seems to come naturally these days. So on this night, Puig goes from leadoff to cleanup.
“I would prefer him a little bit lower, down at the beginning where he can run and do some things,” Mattingly said. “But with what’s going on, you have to try and put the best lineup out there that gives us the best chance to win and score runs.
“Somebody has to drive in runs.”