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Sunday, July 27, 2014
Dodgers make trade deadline seem less relevant

By Mark Saxon

SAN FRANCISCO -- The National League West might still be decided based on what the respective general managers of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are able to pull off before Thursday's trade deadline.

And then again it might not.

Dodgers
The Dodgers were feeling pretty good about themselves after a three-game sweep of the Giants that vaulted them back into first place.
The Giants have made the only two moves so far, with general manager Brian Sabean scooping up Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox for a couple of pitching prospects, and Dan Uggla from the Atlanta Braves' discard pile. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti admitted Saturday that talks hadn't gotten far off the ground and said, "You know what? We may not do anything."

If you've followed Colletti's active track record at this time of year, you know that admission had to hurt.

But it probably hurt a little bit less after he watched his team dominate the Giants for two games and then eke by them Sunday night, 4-3, for a three-game sweep that put the Dodgers alone in first place in the NL West for the first time since July 13.

On Sunday, the Dodgers beat Peavy, which in itself is noteworthy since he was 14-2 in his career against them coming in. Peavy had arrived in the middle of the Dodgers' 5-0 Saturday win, a Clayton Kershaw two-hitter, and made his Giants debut on "Sunday Night Baseball" against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has learned to mimic Kershaw's slider to the disgust of National League hitters of late.

Uggla, by the way, went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and three errors at second base in the series.

Not that Peavy was bad, not by a long stretch. He gave the Giants a quality start despite one run scoring because of Uggla's error and another scoring because Buster Posey took his time throwing to first after a strikeout on a ball in the dirt, and speedster Dee Gordon alertly broke for home.

"That's tough when you give a good team extra outs, but at the same time that's what being a team is about and I've got to pick up the team and do a better job," Peavy said afterward. "Buster and I are going to need a little time to get used to one another."

The Dodgers' most glaring need is a setup reliever, but Sunday they looked just fine in that department when their three best relievers were rested and lined up for the final three innings. J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen shut down the Giants in the the final three innings, with Jansen striking out the side in the ninth for his 30th save.

Howell has made 12 straight scoreless appearances. Jansen has nailed his past 10 save chances, has struck out 17 of the past 40 batters he has faced and opponents are hitting .125 off him in that span. So, whether they need another arm -- particularly at the expense of a prospect -- is an open question.

"With all respect, our front office is the ones who know what we need to get better, but from what I know, we have seven of the toughest guys in the league," Jansen said of the Dodgers' bullpen. "We all went to battle this year and you can see it now. It's coming, the consistency."

The Dodgers' starting pitching isn't coming. It's just not going anywhere, at least when Zack Greinke, Kershaw and Ryu are involved. The Dodgers lined them up to pitch this series and together they were 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA.

Josh Beckett's start Tuesday night will be telling. If he struggles again or feels any discomfort in his ailing left hip, Colletti might feel more compelled to trade for another starting pitcher. If he's good, that need, too, appears to be far from dire.

Ryu (12-5) picked up a new grip for his slider from Kershaw at the beginning of the month, used it first in a two-hit, 10-strikeout performance against the Padres before the All-Star break and now appears to be rolling.

The rumor of the day Sunday cropped up in Boston, where ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes hears the Red Sox are pondering a trade that would involve ace lefty Jon Lester and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. It's a complicated transaction that would undoubtedly involve some money going from the Dodgers to Boston and, perhaps, a prospect coming to Los Angeles.

But even moving Kemp isn't seeming like such a bright idea lately, no matter how many times his agent points out how unhappy Kemp is. The Dodgers' outfield, newly aligned with Kemp in right field and Yasiel Puig in center, has looked as stable and productive over the past three games as it has all season. Puig, Kemp and Carl Crawford combined to bat .342 with five triples in these three games while covering all the ground they could at AT&T Park.

"I liked the way it felt going in," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the new alignment. "It just feels like it's got a more settled feel to the lineup every day."

Everything had a more settled feel for the Dodgers on Sunday evening and all that the Giants had managed to pull off, at least for the moment, was to change.