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Monday, May 27, 2013
That's what team chemistry looks like

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES -- One of the questions that set off Don Mattingly's now-famous rant about wanting to see more fight centered around a comparison of this season's team to last year's.

In Game 48 of the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a lineup featuring such luminaries as Tony Gwynn Jr., Elian Herrera, Bobby Abreu, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Dee Gordon. After that game, their record was 32-16, or 11 1/2 games better than the twice-as-expensive 2013 version.

Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez is 9-for-11 with seven RBIs since Saturday.
Last year's team, at least for a while, must have been among the grittiest in the history of grit.

We saw a rare reprisal of that theme in an otherwise big-money flop of a season: Monday night's 8-7 win over the no-longer-streaking Los Angeles Angels. Mattingly's lineup had two guys who weren't on the roster on Opening Day and two more who were supposed to be on the bench.

The Angels, who only recently turned on their power, had five starters -- Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick -- with more home runs than the Dodgers' team leader, Adrian Gonzalez.

And guess what? Grit!

The Dodgers fought their way out of a 6-1 hole, relentlessly pestering C.J. Wilson and a couple of Angels relievers. The most amazing thing about this modest uptick in their play -- 3-2 since Mattingly's comments -- is that it has come with virtually no contributions from their marquee player, Matt Kemp, who is struggling so mightily Mattingly hinted he might soon drop him in the order.

Kemp struck out four times Monday -- a rare feat -- and has 13 strikeouts in his past 23 plate appearances. Adrian Gonzalez has been the engine: He's 9-for-11 with seven RBIs since Saturday, but Monday was one of those team wins, the kind the Dodgers somehow pulled out, one after the next, last season.

Nick Punto, Scott Van Slyke, Hairston, Luis Cruz and -- of all people -- Juan Uribe played major roles.

"We haven't had many rallies like that, behind by a lot, too. It's a good sign," said pitcher Zack Greinke.