- Mark Saxon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Clayton Kershaw, LHP: Do we really need to elaborate much here? He pitched the 22nd no-hitter in Dodgers history Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, the second this season by a Dodger. He was better than that, though. Only Hanley Ramirez’s throwing error spoiled what would have been the first Dodgers perfect game since Sandy Koufax’s in 1965. Asked if he thought Koufax, who lives in Florida, would have been up to watch it, Kershaw thought about it and said, “Probably not. It’s pretty late out there.”
Matt Kemp, LF: If you were to isolate one reason why the Dodgers finally had a winning homestand, you’d land on the former cornerstone of the franchise. The Dodgers had seen hints of this coming for a little while, but this felt more like 2011 than anything he had done over the past two seasons. Kemp had 13 hits in 27 at-bats with two home runs and eight RBIs. With production like that in the No. 5 spot in the order, the Dodgers lineup became deeper and more dangerous. Who knows where Kemp’s L.A. career is headed, but this gave a glimpse that maybe it can have a happy ending.
Patience: Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire embodied it as hitters and they have preached it as hitting coaches. They want the Dodgers to be willing to take their walks and hand the baton to the next guy when it comes to driving in runs. The emphasis is working lately. The Dodgers rank second in the NL in walks and third in on-base percentage. The most amazing part is who is leading the charge: Yasiel Puig already has nearly equaled his walk total from last year. He is three short of that total, 36, but in 38 fewer games.
J.P. Howell, LHP: The Dodgers have started employing the hashtag #AllStar every time he pitches, which might be a bit ambitious. He's got only the slimmest of chances of pitching in Minneapolis next month, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been as valuable as anyone in the Dodgers bullpen. The Dodgers love his attitude. He's willing to take the ball every day, he competes and he doesn't give in to hitters. He also has a 0.69 ERA since May 6, which helps them like him even more.
Eighth-inning certainty: The Dodgers thought they had removed much of the uncertainty that comes with bullpens by stocking theirs with former closers. But they haven’t found that lockdown eighth-inning guy to get the ball to Kenley Jansen and they're nearly to the All-Star break. Brian Wilson has been better, having allowed just one run in his past 14 appearances, but he hardly seems automatic. They don't seem to want to give the ball exclusively to Howell, Brandon League seems to struggle in close games and Chris Perez has been maddeningly inconsistent.
Paul Maholm, LHP: If the Dodgers are looking to improve their bullpen at the trade deadline, Perez and Maholm could be in danger of losing roster spots. Maholm pitches only about once a week and, if the Dodgers should find themselves needing a spot starter, they might be better off with one of their Triple-A arms such as Zach Lee or Red Patterson.
RISING Clayton Kershaw, LHP: Do we really need to elaborate much here? He pitched the 22nd no-hitter in Dodgers history Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, the second this season by a Dodger.