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Three up, three down: Crawford boosting hot Dodgers

Outfielder fresh off torrid week; Rios makes quick impact in Texas debut @TracyRingolsby

UP: Carl Crawford
Finally feeling healthy, Carl Crawford has given the Dodgers an expected boost from the leadoff spot. Crawford started for the eighth time in the last nine games on Sunday, helping the Dodgers to their eighth win in that stretch. A leadoff hitter's job is to get on base and create offense, and Crawford has done that -- with a .429 average and a .473 on-base percentage in the nine games. He scored seven runs and drove in three, helping offset the fact that Hanley Ramirez hasn't started in seven games because of the right shoulder he bruised diving into the stands at Wrigley Field on Aug. 4.

Meanwhile, Zack Greinke is tuning up his game. He was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA over the past week, helping the Dodgers expand their National League West lead over Arizona to 7 1/2 games. Greinke has seen the Dodgers win nine of his last 10 starts, during which time he has a 2.49 ERA. Meanwhile, Arizona took a double hit on Sunday, putting Eric Chavez on the disabled list with a left knee strain and losing Cody Ross to a dislocated right hip.

DOWN: Jason Giambi
The Cleveland designated hitter struggled through a 1-for-15 week in which he struck out six times, and his season average slipped to .181. The Indians lost six of seven games and found the charging Royals pull within a half-game of second place in the American League Central. The Indians combined for an AL-low .206 average last week. Giambi, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall combined to hit .129, with twice as many strikeouts (22) as hits (11).

The Royals, meanwhile, built their charge off an offense that hit .316 and scored 39 runs, the third-most runs in the AL last week. Kansas City's young corner infielders, Mike Moustakas (.306) and Eric Hosmer (.414), anchored a lineup in which five regulars hit better than .300.

UP: Alex Rios
The Rangers moved quickly to fill the void created by the 50-game suspension of right fielder Nelson Cruz for his part in the Biogenesis investigation, acquiring Rios in a waiver deal from the White Sox on Friday. While he doesn't have the power of Cruz, Rios is a definite defensive upgrade, and he's a proven veteran. He had a quick impact. In his Rangers debut Saturday, Rios tripled home the game-tying run in the eighth inning and scored the go-ahead run in a 5-4 victory at Houston, extending a Texas winning streak that reached seven games on Sunday. Rios was 4-for-7 with three runs scored and two RBIs in his first two games with the Rangers, a solid complement to Adrian Beltre.

Beltre hit .462 with nine RBIs in the seven-game streak, helping the Rangers take a one-game lead in the AL West over Oakland. The A's stumbled through a 2-3 week in which the rotation was 1-3, worked only 24 1/3 innings and compiled a 5.18 ERA. Meanwhile, the bats of Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss combined to hit .194.

DOWN: Fernando Rodney
Rodney can have shaky moments (27-for-34 in save opportunities), but it's tough to get any shakier than the blown saves in his two appearances during the Rays' 0-5 week. Rodney retired only three of the 11 batters he faced and allowed two inherited to score in a 9-8 loss at Arizona on Wednesday.

Rodney then gave up four runs in a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers on Friday. And as if three consecutive run-scoring one-out hits at Dodger Stadium -- a triple by Mark Ellis, and doubles by Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez -- weren't bad enough, that game ended with Jerry Hairston bouncing back to the mound for a potential inning-ending double play. Instead of getting a 10th-inning chance to overcome Rodney's second set of back-to-back blown saves this season, the Rays headed for the clubhouse when Rodney threw the ball past second base into center field for a game-ending error. Blown out by the Dodgers on Sunday, the Rays found themselves three games back of Boston in the AL East -- five games in the win column. They still lead the AL Wild Card race, but they're only 1 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore, which is third in the Wild Card standings.

UP: Wilmer Flores
With David Wright on the disabled list, the Mets called up Flores, who made his big league debut last Tuesday -- his 22nd birthday -- six years to the day after he was signed by the Mets. Flores hit .261 with nine RBIs in his first week, helping the Mets claim five wins in six games. Flores made teams pay for pitching around a suddenly hot Ike Davis. Davis hit .538 over the week, but hitting ahead of Flores, Davis drew more walks (nine, three intentional) than he had hits (seven).

It's not like the Mets are going to overtake NL East-leading Atlanta, which has a 14 1/2-game lead on Washington and 16 1/2 on the third-place Mets, nor become a Wild Card factor -- where they are 10 games back for the second NL spot. The Mets can, however, feel some parts coming together for the future, including the maturation of starting pitcher Dillon Gee, who is 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts.

DOWN: Jake Westbrook
Shelby Miller didn't have much to do with the Cardinals' 2-5 week, and that's the problem. He only faced one batter in his Wednesday start at Dodger Stadium. On the second pitch Miller threw, Carl Crawford lined a double off the right-hander's pitching elbow. The good news was Miller did not seem to have any residual problems when he threw on the side the next day, and he could return to the rotation Wednesday. But having him knocked out without getting an out jumbled a Cardinals pitching staff that set them up for back-to-back losses to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers wound up with a 13-4 victory on Wednesday. Westbrook, working on three days' rest to try and give St. Louis enough innings that the bullpen wasn't worn out, took over in the second inning and gave up nine runs in 4 2/3 innings. Westbrook has lost his last three appearances, giving up 18 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. To fill in for Westbrook on Thursday, the Cardinals called on rookie Carlos Martinez, whose 10 previous big league appearances were out of the bullpen -- and only one lasted even two innings. He allowed only one run in the first four innings of the game before giving up three runs and retiring only two batters in the fifth inning of a 5-1 loss.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for

Carl Crawford, Wilmer Flores, Alex Rios