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Dodgers showing off speed on basepaths

Addition of players has elevated baserunning in past month

SAN DIEGO -- No one would ever confuse these Dodgers with the run-happy Cardinals of the mid-80s. But something has been noticeably different on the basepaths for Los Angeles recently.

Entering play Saturday, the Dodgers have stolen 22 bags in the past calendar month -- an impressive total, given that they stole just 22 in four combined months before that. They remain in last place in the National League in steals, but the gap is closing.

The Dodgers swiped three bags Friday in a win over the Padres -- their third game with at least three steals in a week.

"Hopefully we can gain some momentum in that area and just be a smart baserunning club," said manager Don Mattingly. "That doesn't necessarily mean we're stealing a lot of bases. Just be smart."

So what has changed? Is it the addition of a notoriously aggressive Ron Roenicke to the staff as third-base coach? Have the Dodgers suddenly shifted their organizational philosophy?

"We're not really doing anything different," Mattingly insists. "We just have some different guys."

He's right. Carl Crawford, who returned from an oblique injury in late July, has six of those 22 steals. Callups Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler have reached base seven times (not including triples and home runs), and they've combined for five steals.

But the Dodgers also have made a point to be more aggressive on the basepaths, whether stealing or simply taking an extra base -- with a major emphasis on doing so smartly.

"We talked about it as a team, about running and doing those things," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "Guys have been definitely more open to it. The top down has been definitely more open to running. Now we're starting to get results. Better late than never."

Worth noting

• Mattingly said he's been closely following the Matt Harvey innings-limit situation in New York, but he wouldn't give an opinion on it. Harvey's status could directly affect the Dodgers, who would face the Mets in the NL Division Series if the playoffs started today.

"I try to stay out of everybody else's business, but it has been interesting to watch," Mattingly said. "You wonder if it's going to have an effect on the team and all that kind of stuff. It will be interesting to see how it plays out."

Yasmani Grandal was hitless over his last 10 games (0-for-30) entering play Saturday night. But Mattingly said he isn't having any second thoughts about sticking with Grandal as his No. 1 backstop.

"It happens a lot," Mattingly said. "Guys go through periods of time where they struggle. ... Confidence is a big part of that. Next thing you know he gets two hits, he feels good, he's on a roll."

Andre Ethier returned to the lineup Saturday night after missing two games with a bruised right knee. Ethier sustained the injury when he fouled a ball off his knee Wednesday night.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.
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