Stakes are raised as D-backs, Dodgers resume heated rivalry

Set aside the brawl in the last series between the Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers when they met in mid-June. Things have changed appreciably since.

Back then the Dodgers were squarely in last place in the NL West and speculation was rampant that manager Don Mattingly’s job was in jeopardy. Not so fast here. The emergence of Cuban emigre outfielder Yasiel Puig and improved overall health have turned the Dodgers into the D-backs’ closest competitor as the All-Star Game nears.

The Dodgers have gained four games in the division race since the D-backs took two out of three on June 10-12 and have climbed into second place in the NL West, 4 ½ games behind the D-backs. New starter Ricky Nolasco will make his first start for the Dodgers on Tuesday after being obtained from Miami last Saturday. The deep-pocketed Dodgers were one of the few suitors willing to take on all of the remaining money on Nolasco’s $11.5 million contract. He will be a free agent this winter.

Pitching matchups: Monday — RHP Zack Greinke (6-2, 4.30 ERA) vs. RHP Randall Delgado (1-2, 3.67). Tuesday — RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-8, 3.85) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (3-4, 5.16). Wednesday — LHP Huyn-Jin Ryu (7-3, 2.82) vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 3.65)

Whose hot for the Diamondbacks: During the team’s five-game winning streak, the starting pitchers have given up six runs in 38 innings — a 1.42 ERA … Martin Prado had three hits in two of his last five games and is hitting .341 with three homers and six RBIs since June 25. … Cody Ross had a career-high five-hit game and like Prado is heating up, hitting .319 with two homers since June 25. … Paul Goldschmidt has RBIs in three straight games. … Delgado has not given up more than three earned runs in any of his four starts since joining the rotation as a replacement for Brandon McCarthy and Ian Kennedy. … Aaron Hill has seven hits in his last 17 at-bats.

Whose not: Miguel Montero has five hits in his last 25 at-bats, although one of the hits was a three-run homer against Colorado on Saturday.   

Whose hot for the Dodgers:
Yasiel Puig, who was recalled on June 3 after signing a seven-year, $42 million free agent contract last summer, has 16 multiple-hit games and eight home runs in his first 32 games. He is hitting .409 with a .667 slugging percentage. …  Hanley Ramirez extended his career-high hitting streak to 18 games with a monster week, going 12-for-25 with three doubles, two triples and a homer. He is hitting .410 isince returning to full health following the last series with the D-backs. … Adrian Gonzalez has 10 hits, including three home runs, in his last 28 at-bats.

Whose not: Matt Kemp tweaked his surgically repaired left shoulder and took himself out of Friday’s game against the Giants but is expected to return to the lineup Monday. He has five hits in his last 23 at-bats. He has four homers in 63 games this season after hitting 23 last year and 39 the year before, when he was second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting.

Notes, quotes, odds and ends: Puig was touted as possible All-Star selection after his strong start, creating a polarizing debate. Puig was left off the teams that were announced Saturday, but he still has a chance — he and Dodgers teammate Adrian Gonzalez are two of the five players from which the fans will choose the final All-Star. … Neither team’s ace lefty, Clayton Kershaw or Patrick Corbin, will pitch in this series after starting and winning Sunday. … The Dodgers are fresh from a heated series against San Francisco, in which players from both teams heckled each other throughout. Giants closer Sergio Romo made fun of Ramirez after earning a save Saturday, and Puig gestured toward Romo on Sunday after scoring the first run in a three-run game-winning ninth-inning rally. … Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .359 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the first nine games against the Dodgers this season and is a career .320 hitter with seven homers against them. … The D-backs’ bullpen is fully rested after Skaggs, Wade Miley and Corbin all went eight innings in their weekend starts against Colorado. … The D-backs (18) and Dodgers (16) are in the top three in the league in failed save conversions this season. Heath Bell remains the D-backs closer as J.J. Putz regains arm strength, and the Dodgers have turned to Kenley Jansen to replace Brandon League.