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Joc be nimble: Rookie does it again

LOS ANGELES -- Lost in the shuffle of another loss to the Giants on Friday, a 9-5 defeat that gave San Francisco an 8-2 lead in the season series, Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson continues to play stellar defense.

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Pederson got on his horse in the sixth inning to chase down a sinking liner from Gregor Blanco in right-center field. The rookie tracked the ball off the bat, raced into the gap, dove, tumbled, rolled and came up with the catch.

The play kept the Dodgers' deficit at 5-3 in the sixth inning, but the Giants tacked on four runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach.

"Every play that someone makes or every hit that someone has has a chance to change the game," manager Don Mattingly said. "It was a tremendous play. I didn't think he had a chance to get that ball."

Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully already calls the 23-year-old "maybe the best defensive center fielder the Dodgers have ever had." That's some high praise coming from a Hall of Famer in his 59th consecutive season with the club.

Friday's catch was just the latest addition to Pederson's ever-expanding highlight reel.

On May 6, Pederson tracked down a deep fly ball on the warning track in Milwaukee. After nearly an endless run into the Brewers' trapezoidal center field, Pederson leapt at the base of the wall and hauled the ball in before ending up on his back after colliding with the wall.

Video: [email protected]: Pederson smashes into wall after great catch

Then on June 10, Pederson went vertical to rob the first home run of career. Yasmany Tomas launched a deep fly to right-center field, but Pederson was there again to save runs by timing up his steps and his leap to bring back a potential home run.

Video: [email protected]: Pederson robs Tomas with great leaping grab

Finally, on Sunday, Pederson made a game-saving catch in San Diego as he robbed Justin Upton in the ninth inning. Running toward the wall at a full sprint, Pederson flipped which shoulder he was looking over to snag Upton's fly ball an instant before crashing into the center-field wall, eliciting an incredulous reaction from Upton and an equally emphatic one from pitcher Juan Nicasio.

Video: [email protected]: Pederson crashes into the wall for great grab

"He plays Gold Glove center field," third baseman Justin Turner said. "Any time the ball is hit out there, you know he has a chance to run it down. He's playing the heck out of center field and saving a lot of runs for us."

The 23-year-old has made only one error all season in center field, and his four outfield assists are seventh in the Majors at the position. Combined with his power and eye at the plate -- he leads all rookies with 17 home runs and is second in on-base percentage -- Pederson has thrust himself firmly into the discussion for National League Rookie of the Year.

Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for
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