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Pressed into service, bench coming up big

ST. LOUIS -- Plagued by injuries to key players, the Dodgers struggled early this season. And though they are once again playing without some of their stars -- Matt Kemp is on the disabled list and Hanley Ramirez is working back from a jammed right shoulder -- they don't appear to have missed a beat.

Amid Los Angeles' 33-8 stretch, role players have emerged as every bit as important to the team's success as its stars. Manager Don Mattingly said that the Dodgers have had just one day this season when the team has been entirely healthy, causing him to lean heavily on a bench composed of players comfortable within their roles.

"It's a happier team when guys aren't sitting on the bench and wanting to play every day," Mattingly said. "It makes it a lot easier for me, because you use them to give guys breaks, and when they play, they know what they're doing, and they bring energy. That's really what you want from your guys on the bench."

The strength of the bench was apparent during Wednesday's 13-4 victory over the Cardinals. Dee Gordon, starting for Ramirez at shortstop, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run; veteran third baseman Jerry Hairston drove home his fifth RBI in any many games; and former Cardinal Skip Schumaker had a 3-for-6, four-RBI night.

"I'm 37. Gone are the days I'm going to play every single day," Hairston said. "We know our roles and we know what we're capable of doing. But we have fun with it. We have guys that love to be a part of winning teams and know how to win."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for
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