Carl Crawford was in the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup on Monday as the team began a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves, which has become the norm for manager Don Mattingly.
Since returning from the disabled list, Crawford has started in 18 of the Dodgers’ 25 games. Prior to the Dodgers defeating the Braves, Mattingly discussed the reasoning behind Crawford taking hold of left field, via Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
Carl, before he got hurt, was probably swinging the bat better than anyone we had,” Mattingly said. “I feel like Carl’s going to get back to that.”
Mattingly also cited the contact Crawford has made as an added reason the left fielder is receiving regular playing time:
If you really look at our numbers, he had as high a percentage of balls hit on the nose as anyone we’ve got,” Mattingly said.
Crawford went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in Monday’s win, but is still hitting a lowly .213 since coming off the DL. During that same time frame, Monday was Crawford’s second consecutive multi-hit game and fourth overall.
With Crawford emerging as Mattingly’s preferred choice in left field, Andre Ethier has become a regular on the bench. Despite his desire to start, Ethier said it’s a role he’s come to terms with. In an effort to get the 32 year old playing time, Mattingly recently worked with Ethier at first base.
Ethier’s season has been another filled with unpredictability as he’s gone from platooning in left field with Crawford to replacing Matt Kemp in center and now to the bench.
On the season Ethier is hitting .247, has four home runs and 39 RBIs. Crawford is batting .248, also has four home runs but only 25 RBIs, though in 31 fewer games played than Ethier. While Crawford is inferior to Ethier in terms of runs driven in, he does have the upper hand, or leg, when it comes to speed.
Crawford has stolen 14 bases this season to Ethier’s one. Although it’s not a prolific amount by any means, the threat of Crawford stealing a base and his ability to beat out a ground ball adds another dimension to the Dodgers offense that is now without Hanley Ramirez.
Mattingly’s juggling act has worked well enough to get the Dodgers not only atop the National League West standings but also a 1.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the best record in the NL. With the season winding down, roles have become more clear, which in theory should aid the Dodgers’ run at a World Series.
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