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Dodgers hope Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley stabilize pennant chase

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Chase Utley has 10 postseason home runs on his résumé and a .902 OPS in playoff games. Jimmy Rollins' best career month is September, and he has had monster postseason series -- most recently the 2011 National League Division Series -- when he had nine hits, including four doubles.

So while bringing the league's best double-play tandem a couple thousand miles west might have seemed a better idea in 2009 than it does right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers probably have broader plans for Utley than to simply use him as a fill-in for the injured Howie Kendrick, and then to have him fill gaps as a utility guy after that.

They're looking for another stabilizing element on a team that has shown occasional signs of erratic play under pressure. Case in point: the magically disappearing offense in Oakland the past two days, when the Dodgers got swept while managing nine hits in two games. The capper was Wednesday's blah 5-2 loss at the hands of Jesse Chavez and the scrappy A's.

Utley isn't going to be a radical upgrade over Enrique Hernandez, if he's an upgrade at all. But while Kendrick is out a few weeks, he can hold down second base proficiently. That way, Hernandez can play some center field and the Dodgers won't have to simply live with Joc Pederson's monthlong slump. In fact, the Dodgers' waning patience with Pederson's at-bats seems to be part of the motivation for the deal. Pederson is 5 for his past 51 (.098) with 22 strikeouts. He will be playing less, a source said, even missing games against right-handed pitchers.

And Utley's ability to do well in pressure situations plays into it, too. How can it not?

"He does have experience. He's a tough guy. He brings that with him," Rollins said of Utley, his teammate on the Philadelphia Phillies from 2005 to 2014. "More than anything, there will be some new excitement in the clubhouse. He has a chance to play some meaningful baseball late in the year again. That's what we all want."

One would have expected the Dodgers' previous front office to be more gung ho about acquiring Utley than the current one, given Ned Colletti's propensity for adding proven veterans and Andrew Friedman's propensity for doing practically the opposite. Two years ago, Colletti acquired Michael Young in the waning days of his once-impressive career and didn't have much of a role for him.

Friedman's group apparently has use for tested veterans as well, at least as September beckons.

The Dodgers need more reliable performances from certain areas of their team to hold up well in this pennant race. Before Wednesday's game, the entire bullpen -- which has a 6.20 ERA since July 1 -- met near the right-field line at O.co Coliseum and heard words from bullpen coach Chuck Crim and closer Kenley Jansen. Then, Jim Johnson went out and gave up a couple runs in the eighth inning as Oakland blew the game open.

Hernandez is actually giving the Dodgers some of their steadiest production lately. Rollins, though, has been the rock since just after the All-Star break. He has emerged from his slump, hitting .300 since, and has vacuumed up practically everything hit within diving range up the middle.

Rollins hit a two-run homer in Oakland, not 15 feet from a home run he'd hit to win a California state high school championship game for the Encinal Jets, who play about six miles from O.co Coliseum.

Rollins said Larry Bowa, his former Phillies manager, used to call him a "red-light player." The Dodgers are witnessing how Rollins performs when the camera's little red light flicks on.

"I think he's been thriving since the second half started. I think he just knows what time it is," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's one of the guys who seems really relaxed out there. Howie was the same. I think he's thriving for sure."

And the rest of the team?

"I think we're OK. Anything's going to look bad when you lose a couple games, you don't score enough runs. Your guys are going to look bad. I'm not going to get caught in one-day windows, two-day windows. There's a long way to go, a lot of baseball to be played, a lot of big games left."

At some point, you can't say there's a lot of baseball left. At an even more jarring point, there are no more big games to be played. That's why the Dodgers acted when they did to get another guy they think they can trust as these days dwindle down.