PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have developed a style all their own this season and one that probably will never be duplicated -- at least not out of choice.
There is no book on the way the Dodgers have gone about putting together the best record in the National League West. Well, if we are talking about a manager’s survival guide, then perhaps there is a book.
Rookie Brock Stewart, who started the season at Single-A, pitched five innings to pick up the victory. Rookie Andrew Toles, who started the season at Single-A, cut down a runner at the plate with a perfect throw from left field. Rookie Rob Segedin, who wasn’t even in the major leagues until last month, had a walk and scored a run.
It is all happening in September with a fourth consecutive division title on the line. So rookie manager Dave Roberts was asked what he would have thought way back in spring training if he got a look at all the players who contributed in a Sept. 17 game.
“It probably would have [scared me],” Roberts said. “I think there were some games when you look at the lineups we have run out there in September and it kind of looks like a [spring training] split-squad game. But these guys are now major league players playing on a playoff-contending team, and there is a reason why I put them in the lineup.”
Ever since June, right about the time Clayton Kershaw was first lost for 75 days with a back injury, the Dodgers have gotten things done with talent, no doubt, but also a little duct tape, glue and Band-Aids. They are MLB’s creativity gurus, using a coat hanger to get reception on the high-definition television. They are the masters of invention, like right fielder Josh Reddick passing the mound in the eighth inning and using the rosin bag to brush his hair.
These unconventional Dodgers have been winning with just enough starting pitching, long runs each night from their bullpen and an offense that can usually cobble enough runs together as long as it is not facing an opposing left-hander.
Stewart gave up two runs on five hits with six strikeouts over five innings as a late rotation replacement for Bud Norris. The Dodgers went to Stewart on Saturday only after he wasn’t needed to back up starts from Kershaw (Wednesday) or Rich Hill (Thursday).
Stewart might be just be 24, with only six games of major league experience, but the opportunity is not lost on him. He is learning to embrace things like a postgame interview session that is interrupted when his teammates roar all around him after the San Francisco Giants let another game slip away in the ninth inning.
“It is definitely something I don’t take lightly,” Stewart said. “I am very happy they’re giving me these opportunities. I’m just happy that I can help this team. That’s what it is all about at this level is getting wins, and I’m glad that it has been working out lately.”
Stewart turned the ball over to five relievers, with Kenley Jansen recording the final three outs despite pitching with a sore right wrist. Jansen came out of Friday night’s 22-pitch save with wrist soreness, but Roberts said his flamethrower was still available Saturday.
As the Dodgers were following the recipe they have developed this season, it only made sense that rookie Corey Seager was in the mix. Seager had two hits, including a triple, and now has a Dodgers' rookie-record 181 hits this season. Steve Sax previously held the record of 180, set in 1982. Seager previously had passed other Dodgers rookies such as Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Todd Hollandsworth, Raul Mondesi, Frank Howard, Ted Sizemore and Jim Lefebvre.
“It’s cool, but one of those things you really don’t want to think about right now,” Seager said. “But it obviously is really cool, though. It’s special to be up there. There are a lot of great names at the top of that board, so it’s really cool to be there.”
The board Seager really likes being on the top of is the NL West standings. The Dodgers moved atop the division on Aug. 16, slipped back to second place a few days later and got back on top on Aug. 21. They've held it ever since and now have a five-game lead on the Giants, the same margin they had when their three-city, 10-game road trip began last week. That trip ends Sunday in Arizona.
“You have to take advantage of every chance you get, and this team is always on its toes,” said Reddick, who had three hits Saturday. “That’s how you win the game, and if something happens where [the opponent] screws up, then you have to take advantage of it.”
Add “opportunists” to that survival guide the Dodgers are using.