Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dodgers Report [Print without images]

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Stock watch: Pitching still going strong

By Mark Saxon

RISING

Streaking
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: The five weeks he spent on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his upper back could be a good thing in the long run. Should the Dodgers qualify for the postseason, his arm figures to be in better condition than it was by last October after piling up more innings than ever in his career. Kershaw figures to be particularly fresh going into Friday night’s start since he only had to go five innings and throw 73 pitches to get his last win in Colorado. The final four innings were rained out. Since a clunker in Arizona, Kershaw is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and opponents are hitting .170 off him. The Dodgers have their ace back, primed for the shorter season.

Josh Beckett, RHP: He’s 34, so you would have expected a big drop-off after his May 25 no-hitter, especially after he needed 128 pitches to pull it off. Instead, the Dodgers have monitored his pitch count and Beckett has found a way to be just as good since the no-hitter as before. He only has one win to show for it -- the Dodgers have not scored for him this season -- but he has a 2.12 ERA since the no-hitter. His 4-3 record will obscure the kind of season he is having, but it’s one of the more remarkable stories of the Dodgers’ first half.

J.P. Howell, LHP: He has become the escape artist of the Dodgers’ bullpen, equipped with a heavy sinker that allows him to pile up double plays. He got two that ended innings to preserve the Dodgers’ win Monday night. He pitches in the middle innings and has a fastball that just scrapes the upper 80s, but he’s also really good and has been valuable. The first batter Howell has faced has gone 2-for-26.

FALLING

Slumping
Yasiel Puig, RF: It hasn’t been a bad week for the Dodgers’ best player in some regards. He experienced snow for the first time in Colorado. He met race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Cincinnati. He went to the zoo for a TV segment and held a big snake. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that he has appeared tired on the field at times lately and he hasn’t been able to maintain his hot hitting, which is understandable. Puig has gone 4-for-19 on this road trip, striking out three times Wednesday night.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: He had a couple of doubles Tuesday night and another Wednesday, but extra-base hits -- or any kind of hits -- have been few and far between for the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter. Gonzalez has four hits in 35 at-bats this month. He is hitting too many balls on the ground and falling victim to overshifts, but the strikeouts have been more surprising since he is typically a contact hitter. Gonzalez has 14 strikeouts this month. He had 24 in all of March and April.