5/24/2014 6:35 P.M. ET
Howell's great escape boosts struggling 'pen
By Michael Radano / Special to MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- For a bullpen that has struggled this season -- the Dodgers entered Saturday ranked 24th in the Majors with a 4.20 ERA -- there have been encouraging signs.
For one, Brandon League has gone 15 appearances and 21 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That almost came to an end on Friday night as he entered the game in the seventh of a 2-0 game and promptly loaded the bases.
The Dodgers went to J.P. Howell, who picked up League and escaped the frame without giving up a run and helping preserve Clayton Kershaw's victory.
"J.P. did a great job tonight," Kershaw said after the game. "That's what we have to do."
"[Howell] was great," manager Don Mattingly said. "He settled us down. That's a situation that really could have changed the game against us. So, he did a nice job."
One key to the bullpen getting stronger is the rotation. The Dodgers do have the sixth-best ERA of 3.24, but average less than six innings (5.90) per start. Kershaw for one thinks an uptick in that department can make a big difference.
"Like tonight, my pitch count got up high too quickly," said Kershaw, who also had to deal with a 43-minute rain delay. "Our job is to get deeper in games. We're in a spot now that we are in a getting stronger and if we can get deeper, that will only help our entire staff."
Gordon's legs ignite spark in Dodgers' lineup
PHILADELPHIA -- Given a chance, it's easy to see what Dee Gordon is going to do when he reaches base.
On Friday night, the second baseman stole three bases in the Dodgers' 2-0 win over the Phillies. Two of them, his 26th and 27th of the season, led to an important first-inning run that gave starter Clayton Kershaw a lead the Dodgers would make hold up.
It didn't hurt that Gordon did it in front of his father, former Major League closer Tom Gordon, who played for the Phillies from 2006 through '08, which made Citizens Bank Park one of Dee's former stomping grounds.
"I always listen to my dad," the younger Gordon said after Friday's game. "If he tells me something, I'm going to listen and do it."
While the two play a different game, the Dodgers second baseman has garnered plenty of attention this season with 28 steals through 49 games, putting Gordon on pace for 90 steals.
"I thought he set the tone in the first inning," manager Don Mattingly said after Friday night's win but could have been talking about any game this season in which Gordon registered a steal. "He gets on, steals a couple of bases. That's what his game is."
Kemp sits as Mattingly juggles OF rotation
PHILADELPHIA -- For the second time in as many games, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup on Saturday.
The veteran has struggled defensively this season, but Kemp has produced at the plate. Since May 3, Kemp is hitting .344 (22-for-64) with eight multi-hit games. Add that to the fact he has hit .390 (23-for-59) in his career at Citizens Bank Park and his omission may appear a bit strange. But the reality is the outfield alignment is something manager Don Mattingly approaches as a day-to-day part of his job.
It certainly helps that the entire outfield is hitting right now including Andre Ethier -- Saturday's center fielder -- who hit .340 (17-for-50) with six doubles in his previous 17 games.
"Every day for me is different," said Mattingly, who fielded many of the same questions on Friday afternoon. "I liked the way we looked last night. Every day presents its own circumstances. How we match up. Who the opposing pitcher is, what guys need a day off. That's how it has to be done."
It's also part of Mattingly's job to make his players accept that they won't play every day. For now, Mattingly sees having five outfielders producing as a good problem to have, if it's a problem at all.
"It changes things when everybody is swinging the bat well," Mattingly said. "But it's a good problem.
"I think they kinda do [understand the process]. If it's three or five guys, if it's just on production, we're doing pretty good and that's how we have to look at it. I think guys do struggle with it. But that's when you have to sacrifice for the team.
"We like to defend. If you look at us, we made a decision to build around pitching. It's pitching and defense first."
• Hanley Ramirez was removed from Saturday's lineup with left calf soreness. Erisbel Arruebarrena started at shortstop for the second straight game after making his Major League debut in Friday's 2-0 win.
The Dodgers are hoping Ramirez can play in Sunday's finale. Arruebarrena got his first big league hit with one out in the fifth -- a single into right-center -- in Saturday's 5-3 loss.
• When it comes to replay, Mattingly had just one point to make when it comes to making a challenge. "I'm saying it, we should go to a flag."
• Yasiel Puig reached base five times on Friday night, including three singles. It was the second time this season he accomplished that feat; the first came on May 1.
Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.