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Dodgers starters have been good, when in the game

Dan Haren looks for his fourth win of the season in Thursday's series finale.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Dan Haren takes the mound in Thursday's series finale as the Dodgers hope for a four-game split against the Phillies. Haren looks to continue a very good run by the starting pitchers in the season's opening month.

Dodgers starters rank fourth in the majors in ERA (2.68), WHIP (1.158) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.31), sixth in FIP (3.33) and third in xFIP (3.29) and SIERA (3.33). The starters' ERA is the best opening-month mark by the Dodgers since 2002, when they put up a 2.54 ERA in 26 games.

The performance is especially good when considering that Clayton Kershaw has made only one start.

Dodgers starters have allowed 20 runs (16 earned) in their last 12 games, with a 1.99 ERA during that span, with 66 strikeouts and 20 walks in 72⅓ innings.

The only caveat is that the starters are averaging just 5.65 innings per start, 23rd in the majors. Couple that with five extra-inning games already and the Dodgers' bullpen has thrown 80⅓ innings, second in the majors only to the 6-18 Diamondbacks.

Kenley Jansen (15 games) and J.P. Howell (13) are first and second in the major leagues in appearances, and Chris Perez is tied for 11th with 11 games pitched. Part of the inflated totals are due to the two games in Australia a week before everybody else started their seasons, but even if removing those two games the Dodgers would still be tied for second-most relief innings in baseball with the 7-15 Astros.

Even without the Sydney games Jansen would lead MLB with 13 games pitched and Howell would be tied for second with 12. Jansen has pitched six times with no days rest this season, tied with Francisco Rodriguez for the most in baseball, but Jansen has yet to pitch three days in a row this season. After pitching an inning in each of the last two games, Jansen's availability may be in doubt.

Howell is tied for third with five games on no days rest, and like Jansen has pitched an inning in each of the last two games and hasn't yet been used on three consecutive days in 2014.

Manager Don Mattingly expressed concern at the bullpen workload on Wednesday.

"Right now we're in a situation where we want to keep protecting our back-end guys with length," he said.

Haren can help by continuing his early success. He leads the non-Kershaw staff by averaging 6.25 innings per start, and has lasted at least six innings in three of his four starts (he pitched 5⅔ innings in the other game). His 7⅓ innings on Saturday was the longest start by a Dodgers pitcher this season.

So far this season Haren has 20 strikeouts and just two walks, and has allowed only two home runs in his 25 innings. His quest to keep the ball down has resulted in a 55.3% ground ball rate that is by far the best of his career.

Haren, pitching for the Nationals, faced the Phillies four times in 2013. He was 1-1 with a 4.13 ERA and struck out 27 against seven walks in 24 innings.

Marlon Byrd is 10-for-21 (.476) with two home runs, two doubles and a triple against Haren, and Ryan Howard is 3-for-11 (.273) with two home runs. Domonic Brown is 3-for-10 (.300) with a home run and two walks, while Chase Utley is 4-for-15 (.267) with a home run, a double and two walks against Haren. Jimmy Rollins is 5-for-21 (.238) with three doubles, Jayson Nix is 2-for-5 (.400) with a double, Ben Revere is 4-for-11 (.364) and Carlos Ruiz is 0-for-6.

Kyle Kendrick gets the start for the Phillies. He has lost each of his last three starts against the Dodgers, and in nine career starts against Los Angeles is 3-6 with a 7.09 ERA with 16 walks and only 16 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Perhaps the Dodgers' late runs on Wednesday - one run in the seventh, two more in the eighth - can carry over against Kendrick. Hanley Ramirez homered in the eighth inning and the Dodgers followed with three more hits and another run.

"When I hit that home run, everybody woke up," Ramirez told Alanna Rizzo.

Ramirez is 9-for-35 (.257) with three doubles and a home run against Kendrick, while Andre Ethier is 6-for-22 (.273) with two home runs, two doubles and three walks. Yasiel Puig is 5-for-6 (.833) with a double and a triple, Matt Kemp is 6-for-15 (.400), and Adrian Gonzalez is 3-for-9 (.333) with a double and three walks. Juan Uribe is 2-for-5 (.400) with a double, but more notable is that Jansen is 1-for-1 against Kendrick, collecting his only big league hit (in his first major league at-bat) in 2010.

Maybe we will see Jansen on Thursday night after all.

Game info

Time: 7:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA