- Mark Saxon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Clayton Kershaw, LHP: On June 13, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill doubled to left field to drive in Chris Owings and cut the Los Angeles Dodgers' lead to 2-1 in the third inning. It didn't seem all that remarkable at the time, but in retrospect, that was the last time anyone had a meaningful hit off Kershaw. His next game was a near-perfect no-hitter (with 15 strikeouts) against the Colorado Rockies and, entering Thursday night's game against the San Diego Padres, Kershaw is riding a 36-inning scoreless streak, the longest by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser set the major league record of 59 in 1988. How good has Kershaw been over those 36 innings? Put it this way: He has 45 strikeouts and five walks.
Dee Gordon, 2B: In an era when many veteran players look for every excuse not to attend the All-Star Game, Gordon couldn't be more thrilled to have received the invitation. In fact, he told reporters he felt like crying when manager Don Mattingly told him. You've got to love that, and you’ve got to love the fact that Gordon got himself into the game with a late push that was all his doing -- not a campaign by the PR staff. He is batting .367 in July. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who will manage the NL team, will be glad he has Gordon if the game is close late, because if Gordon gets on base -- or is used as a pinch runner -- he could decide the outcome by stealing a base or two and scoring a key run.
Yasiel Puig, RF: Another Dodgers All-Star, Puig is showing signs of pulling himself out of the desperate power outage he endured in June. Perhaps he was just trying too hard to make it to Minneapolis? He seems to have settled down, to be chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone and to be making better contact. After going all of June without a home run, Puig is batting .272 with four doubles, a triple and a home run in eight games in July. Most likely he will be the only Gillette Home Run Derby participant who has one home run in his past month-and-a-half, but he will be hitting batting practice, after all.
The veteran starters: Josh Beckett, 34, resurrected his career in the first half and, just a couple of weeks ago, looked like an All-Star lock. Dan Haren, 33, had kept the Dodgers in every game he started until things started getting a little wobbly a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Dodgers don't know what they can expect from either one of them in the second half, sending general manager Ned Colletti scurrying to drum up trade talks for starting pitchers. Beckett is on the 15-day disabled list because of a left hip impingement and Haren has a 5.40 ERA in his past seven starts.
Matt Kemp, LF: Carl Crawford is soon to return from the disabled list -- maybe Thursday -- and Kemp, once again, will have to compete for playing time. His at-bats have been all over the map lately. He was 0-for-16 going into the final Colorado game, then went 7-for-9 in the next two games, but came back down to earth Wednesday in Detroit with some unproductive at-bats. Overall, he's batting .242 in his past eight games and Mattingly figures to feel some pressure to get Crawford into games. Both players are confined to left field for now, so it's pretty obvious Kemp will be the odd man out from time to time. The Dodgers, after all, aren't going to pay Crawford $21 million and never play him, will they?
Hanley's health: Is he ready to go, or isn't he? Hanley Ramirez has gotten more than three plate appearances in a game only four times since June 23 -- a span of three weeks -- and two of those were as the designated hitter in Detroit. He has generally hit well enough to support his playing time, but are the Dodgers better off just putting him on the disabled list, letting his shoulder and calf heal and trying to get by with Miguel Rojas' limited offense for a while -- say, through the All-Star break? It seems like a relevant question, particularly since Rojas is a major upgrade defensively.
RISING Clayton Kershaw, LHP: On June 13, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill doubled to left field to drive in Chris Owings and cut the Los Angeles Dodgers' lead to 2-1 in the third inning.