- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Carl Crawford, LF: Some Dodgers fans were tweeting their displeasure with Don Mattingly for starting Crawford over Andre Ethier in left field. There aren’t as many of those tweets lately. Crawford has been the Dodgers’ hottest hitter, going 13-for-29 on the road trip to Anaheim, Milwaukee and Atlanta. He’s streaky as a rule and this season the swings have been exaggerated, but mostly the Dodgers need to keep him healthy because they’ve had a good thing going in the outfield lately.
Kenley Jansen, RHP: The big Curacaoan is helping restore order to the late part of games once again. A.J. Ellis called Jansen’s fastball “invisible,” because of its late movement, and hitters certainly don’t appear to be seeing it well lately. Jansen’s 33 saves are fourth most in the NL and he has blown just 10.8 percent of his save chances. In his last 19 games, he has allowed just one run and held opponents to a .136 average while striking out 28.
Dan Haren, RHP: Give the crafty veteran some credit for working hard to find the right adjustments. Previous to last Wednesday’s start in Anaheim, Haren had gone 0-4 with a 10.03 ERA in the previous five starts. After the Dodgers landed two veteran pitchers, Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia, his spot in the rotation seemed in jeopardy. Mattingly said removing him from the rotation was never discussed, but Haren admits he felt the pressure. Now, there’s far less talk of that as he built on a dominant outing in Anaheim with a good one in Atlanta. He looks more confident and the team feels more confident in him. His goal is six more good starts and a deep run in the playoffs.
Yasiel Puig, RF: It’s looking more and more like the Dodgers -- who have the best record in the National League -- have no clear-cut MVP candidate. Clayton Kershaw deserves some support, but it’s rare for a starting pitcher to win the honor -- Bob Gibson was the last to do it in the NL, in 1968. And Puig has tailed off. He struck out four times in Atlanta Wednesday night and has gone 4-for-29 on this road trip. A good final month-and-a-half could put Puig squarely back in the MVP discussion, as Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is on the disabled list.
Zack Greinke, RHP: It’s not as if he has been awful, and the Dodgers insist he is healthy, but he is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his last two starts with three home runs allowed. Greinke spent some time in Atlanta working with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on his slider grip, which could explain his recent struggles. The Dodgers look a lot more formidable when Greinke and Kershaw are in top form, so how they manage these final weeks with those two -- and how they perform -- could determine how far they go in the playoffs.
1dWalter Villa, Special to ESPN.com