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Koufax-like Clayton Kershaw growing into ace Dodgers crave

The comparisons start simply enough: The kid is left-handed. And when Clayton Kershaw snaps off his curveball while wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, his fate is sealed.
Kershaw is 22 and living with comparisons to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. “I’d rather just go and pitch,” says Kershaw, who concedes that he is both humbled and embarrassed by the references to the Dodgers legend from the 1950s and ’60s.

He will just go and pitch tonight at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in the Dodgers’ second game of the season.

That he’s starting Game 2 is the source of different questions around the Dodgers, but not totally disconnected from the Koufax comparisons.

Kershaw has a similar response.

“I’m not worried about when I pitch,” he says. “I just want to get ready and do the best I [...]

Dodgers lineup expected to stay the same for NLCS

Whomever the opponent in the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers are not expected to make changes in the lineup. It isn’t broken, so manager Joe Torre doesn’t figure to fix it, which means Ronnie Belliard will be the second baseman over Orlando Hudson, Matt Kemp hits in the No. 2 hole and Manny Ramirez continues to bat cleanup.

What really is making the lineup click more than anything right now is Rafael Furcal’s production at the top of the order. He not only had a .500 batting average (6 for 12) in the three-game National League Division Series, he had a .667 on-base percentage. He also is a threat on the basepaths with 12 [...]

Dodgers solve Carpenter, take Game 1

Chris Carpenter had always found the Dodgers to be easy prey. Six times the St. Louis righthander had gone against the NL West Division champs, and he was 5-0 with a 2.20 earned run average. In his last 32 innings against the Boys in Blue, the Cy Young Award contender had held them to three runs.

And the way the Dodgers staggered into the playoffs, moving to the cusp of an epic collapse, it stood to reason that Carpenter would help himself to another healthy portion in last night’s first game of the NL division series at Dodger [...]

Torre chooses Belliard at second

Orlando Hudson feels grateful merely to be on anybody’s roster this season, much less getting ready for the first postseason series of his career.

Actually playing would be even better.

It’ll happen, but not at the start of tonight’s Dodgers-Cardinals Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Tuesday he’ll go with Ronnie Belliard at second base for the opener against Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter.

Belliard “doesn’t have as wide a range (defensively) as Hudson does, but I think offensively he’s maybe a little fresher right now,” Torre said Tuesday.

“We asked O-Dog to do a lot of stuff early in the year. And he played his tail off and continues to do that. But it was just a decision I decided to make, and we’ll go day-to-day right now. We’ll go with Belliard and see what we have.” [...]

Kershaw ripe for breakout, comparison

Sooner or later, Clayton Kershaw seems destined to be “The Guy” of the Dodgers’ starting rotation — and it’s looking more like sooner rather than later.
He was a 20-year-old rookie bit player in last year’s playoffs with two innings of relief, but he’ll be starting Game 2 of the National League Division Series against St. Louis on Thursday, the youngest Dodger given the ball in the postseason since Fernando Valenzuela. Randy Wolf earned the Game 1 nod based on consistency and experience, but it is Kershaw’s electric left arm that has the potential to dominate, even against a lineup as potent as the one the Cardinals possess. [...]

Elbert pitching way into key role for LA

The Dodgers were already trailing by the final score in the eighth inning Tuesday night when Scott Elbert took the mound for the Dodgers, but it wasn’t a meaningless outing for the rookie left-hander.
“He’s auditioning,” said manager Joe Torre, who has been impressed enough by Elbert’s composure and stuff to suddenly use him in close games with an eye on October.

Indeed, with Hong-Chih Kuo’s elusive command only a couple months after seemingly overcoming control issues, Elbert could very well be this year’s James McDonald, sneaking onto the postseason pitching staff via an impressive September after having virtually no role during the previous five [...]

Classy Kemp closing in on history

Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp celebrated a quarter century of life on Wednesday while Dodgers fans are celebrating a rising star who has a good shot of reaching a statistical plateau that has never been reached in the more than 100-year history of the franchise.
Kemp is aiming to become the first Dodgers player to hit .300 with 25 homers, 100 RBIs and 30 steals in one season. Through Wednesday, his 25th birthday, Kemp was hitting .304 with 25 homers, 97 RBIs and 34 steals in 149 games.

Already, he is only the sixth player in Dodgers history to have 20 homers and 30 steals in one season, and the first since Raul Mondesi in 1999.

There will be those who tell you that they knew this is what they’d eventually see from the gifted but raw young athlete drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of high school in Oklahoma, where he turned down an offer from the Sooners to play shooting guard and instead opted to focus on baseball. [...]

Shrewd Colletti has LA eyeing October

Excluding strike-shortened seasons, the Dodgers haven’t finished first in back-to-back seasons since 1977-78 or reached the postseason three times in a four-year span since 1963-66. Frank McCourt owns the Dodgers and Joe Torre manages them, but this is Ned Colletti’s club. He traded for Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez, he refused to trade away Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and he signed Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla.

Since the general manager took over four years ago, the only team in the league with more wins is Philadelphia. Colletti inherited a club that finished 20 games below .500, and in four years, the Dodgers are 50 games above .500. Colletti’s best win-loss record of the four seasons will be this year — after trimming the payroll by $20 million. [...]

Dynamic duo’s strides driving Dodgers

After they lost to Philadelphia in last year’s National League Championship Series, the Dodgers had to know that to make it to the Fall Classic and win a long-awaited ring, they’d need to come of age. They’ve done it this year, and two huge reasons for it are the budding stars in their outfield.

Their names are Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, both are having career years for a first-place club that figures to be a major player in the postseason, and both are young, charismatic, very talented and still loaded with untapped potential.

They’re also very different.

Kemp, who turns 25 next week, is a rare specimen of raw power, speed and baseball talent, even though he was recruited by the University of Oklahoma to play basketball as a shooting guard and teammates, scouts, opposing players and fans liken him to a football [...]