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Dodgers Look Forward to Some Serious Second Half Success

Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford
Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford
Marco Torres for LA Weekly

With a 17-5 three-week run of mostly-inspired play, the Dodgers have saved their 2013 season.

Credit Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez, certainly; credit Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw; credit Don Mattingly for his skippering and Stan Kasten for allowing him to continue, if that's what gets you through the night.

High-fives to Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Stephen Fife, Zack Greinke, Kenley Jansen and Hyun-Jin Ryu for their contributions during the first half, and to the various others who played a role, of which there were many. And hey, while we're at it we might as well thank Brandon League for those eight April saves and poor Luis Cruz for the two-run homer off Joe Blanton which helped win Ryu a ballgame on May 28, because those things count in the final analysis.

And thank you, Ned Colletti, for jettisoning Cruz on July 2, instead of hanging on to the dead weight until August 10, like you did with Garret Anderson in 2010.

While no one on the outside really knows how to divvy up credit to the front office precisely, this much is for sure: Colletti's going to get the lion's share of the criticism no matter how it shakes out, with some of the most searing reactions following trades that actually benefit the club in the long run. In the short run too.

Forget any suggestion of the Dodgers standing pat, or relying on minor adjustments to get them to fall ball. The team's going for it, and they'll be most aggressive in pursuit of pitching, as is now and has always been the Dodgers way to play baseball. And you can bet the house the team brings in more than one reliever.

Most-mentioned relief pitcher candidates include Steve Cishek, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Jose Veras and Ryan Webb, but don't be surprised to see Luke Gregerson in the fold sometime soon, with a savvy veteran like LaTroy Hawkins as a legitimate dark horse possibility. Do be surprised if L.A. takes a chance on Carlos Marmol. Do be surprised if Ted Lilly does anything but collect dust for the foreseeable future.

Starting pitchers considered to be possibilities include Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy (perhaps wishful thinking with these two, but then again maybe not), Matt Garza (watch bloggers tear Colletti a new one), Bud Norris and even Tim Lincecum. I've mentioned Kyle Lohse and Ervin Santana before, like them both, and can see the Dodgers making a play for one of them, post-trade-flack be damned. And Cuban hurler Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is expected to sign with some in-the-money club any minute now.

An infielder will be no doubt be added too. Some guys to think about include Gordon Beckham, Kevin Frandsen, Jeff Keppinger and everybody's favorite second baseman, Chase Utley. And just because L.A. supposedly has a surplus of outfielders and no one's talking about the position, an out-of-nowhere trade for someone like Chris Denorfia, in a deal with Gregerson perhaps, wouldn't be a waste of the time or effort required.

Something else to consider: Almost every year around this time we read about the trade of a prominent player for what amounts to a shockingly-low return. Watch as one fan base or other, with jaws dropped to the floor, chimes in with a rousing chorus of "they got him for that guy?!" I have a feeling it'll be the Dodgers who pull off the coup in 2013.

The key to the L.A.'s division chances concerns the thing that can be guaranteed the least, and it's spelled H-E-A-L-T-H. With what they have now and what's coming in the weeks ahead, their pitching's going be as competitive as most teams' and perhaps even spectacular. Gonzalez will be a rock at first base, Ramirez, while coming back to earth to some degree, will be lashing balls to all fields for the duration, and I expect Ethier to hit better in August and September than he did in April and May.

Crawford and Matt Kemp are the big questions marks from a health standpoint, and with Kemp almost anything is possible. His surgically-corrected shoulder may prevent him from hitting the way we'd all like, and either hamstring could keep him from playing on a regular basis the rest of the way.

Kemp's not going to hit .337, with 17 homers and 59 RBIs after the All-Star break as he did in 2011, and he's not going to manage 15 and 50 like he did in post-break 2009. But if he can go .280/.331/.461 with anywhere close to the 11 homers and 41 RBIs he recorded last season after the break, much of it while playing hurt, Los Angeles will gladly take it. They'll do cartwheels, in fact. And depending on what the front office is able to accomplish, a successful conclusion is possible even without the star center fielder. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

The Dodgers resume play this weekend in Washington, D.C. Matchups for the series with the Nationals are Ricky Nolasco versus Stephen Strasburg today at 4:05 p.m., Greinke opposite Gio Gonzalez Saturday at 4:05 p.m. and Kershaw vs. Jordan Zimmermann Sunday at 10:35 a.m. The Blue Jays for three in Toronto are next of the schedule, with a Reds and Yankees six-game homestand to follow.

Notes:

Buster Olney has a great point about the Biogenesis player suspensions coming in the next week, in advance of Hall of Fame inductions July 29. Since an ESPN Insider subscription is required, here are the key introductory paragraphs:

"Whenever the Biogenesis suspensions go down, Major League Baseball will enter a new stage of a public-relations battle -- and if commissioner Bud Selig is looking for the biggest splash, with the best chance for reinforcement, then he would make the announcements in the next seven days.

"The Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., will be held next weekend, in a year in which no recent retirees will be inducted, and if Selig makes his announcement of suspensions before Friday, he will be guaranteed three days of almost uniformly positive response.

"See, the Hall of Famers will be asked, again, how they feel about steroid users and about MLB's recent fight against users, and over and over again most will almost certainly say that they don't think the PED users belong in the Hall of Fame and that Major League Baseball is doing the right thing."

Get your votes for LA Weekly's Best Sports blog cast while the iron's hot. I highly recommend the Sons of Steve Garvey for their creativity, for their consistently great sense of humor, and for not taking themselves too seriously, unlike most of the rest of us.

Ah, the New England perspective. Here's Eric Avidon's piece essentially thanking the Dodgers for taking Josh Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez and Nick Punto of the Red Sox hands, in the Milford Daily News.

And you gotta love The Onion, right?

Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee
David Blumenkrantz

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