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Dodgers using stolen base as a weapon of late

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In relatively limited duty, Carl Crawford has six steals in seven attempts since Aug. 1.
In relatively limited duty, Carl Crawford has six steals in seven attempts since Aug. 1.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers hit five home runs in Friday night's win over the Padres, which shouldn't be discounted as the long ball has been an offensive weapon all season for Los Angeles. But the Dodgers also stole three bases in Friday's win, showing off a new element of their game that has developed only recently.

All season the Dodgers have been bad at base running, and not just steals. On not taking extra bases, making outs while on the bases, the total package has had the Dodgers at or near the bottom of the league most of the year.

The club went as far as to change third base coaches late in a pennant race, replacing Lorenzo Bundy with Ron Roenicke on Aug. 17.

One place where the improvement is obvious is in stolen bases. Through the first four months of the season, the Dodgers were putrid when attempting to steal, with 21 steals and 24 times caught (46.7 percent) in 103 games. A few of those were botched hit-and-runs but every team has those. But nobody gets caught more often than they are successful.

Since Aug. 1, the Dodgers have been much better, with 23 steals in 27 attempts (85.2 percent) in 31 games, including three games of four steals and Friday night's three-steal effort. Through July 31, the club's high was two steals in a game, done just three times.

Since Aug. 29, the Dodgers are 13-for-13 in steals in just a seven-game span, leading the majors by far. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are next closest during that span, with seven steals apiece.

"We've been a little bit better recently. Sometimes it's who you're playing that night, and that pitcher, if he gives you a chance to steal," manager Don Mattingly said on Tuesday. "It's really down to the mathematics - it takes so long to get to home plate, it takes so long to get to second, so if you get a decent jump you have a shot."

The Dodgers' running crew could be in business again on Saturday night, facing Tyson Ross of the Padres. Ross has allowed 34 stolen bases — second in baseball to Jon Lester's 41 thefts against — in 46 attempts this season.

Derek Norris has thrown out a major-league-best 35 runners this season but has also allowed a whopping 72 steals, for a 32.7-percent caught-stealing rate. With those two as the Padres battery, runners are 24-for-30 in steal attempts in 13 games.

With rookie Austin Hedges catching Ross, the running game has been limited to seven steals in 13 attempts in 12 games. Hedges has caught Ross in each of his last four starts, and in nine of his last 10 outings.

Saturday will be the first career start at Petco Park for Alex Wood, who pitched a perfect inning of relief with one strikeout there in his only appearance in San Diego on June 12, 2013.

Game info

Time: 5:40 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA