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Top 5 Unsung Contributors for the Surging Los Angeles Dodgers

Published on The Los Angeles Dodgers are so hot right now that they're finding ways to win even on days when they strike out more than any other team in franchise history.

Leave it to Yasiel Puig, who after whiffing in three previous at-bats, delivered the game-winning home run in the 11th inning Sunday in a game in which Los Angeles batters struck out a whopping 20 times against Cincinnati Reds pitching.

With their latest victory, the Dodgers have now won 26 of their last 32 games dating back to June 21. Just as he has been doing since his debut almost two months ago, Puig provided the highlights Sunday. And Hanley Ramirez, Puig's partner in crime over this torrid stretch, supplied a crucial two-run home run on Friday and a run-scoring double in Saturday's triumph.

Puig and Ramirez have been absolutely scalding at the plate ever since they both became fixtures in the lineup in early June. Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw has also been dominant, earning a trip to the All-Star game a few weeks ago. But, as we all know, baseball is a team sport and the Dodgers' recent success goes beyond just those players.

Here's an in-depth look at the unsung contributors that have played a key role in helping the Dodgers become the hottest team in the league:

Adrian Gonzalez

He bats between Puig and Ramirez in the lineup but somehow doesn't get the attention he deserves, despite leading the team in hits and home runs. Maybe it's his quiet demeanor or his lack of activity on defense playing first base (although he's picked more bad throws out of the dirt than any other Dodgers' first baseman in recent memory.) "A-Gon" has been the most consistent hitter on the team for the whole season, spraying the ball to all fields back when the Dodgers were scuffling as well as during the team's recent sprint to the top of the division.

Andre Ethier

No other Dodger has benefited more from what Puig and Ramirez have brought to the table than Andre Ethier. One of the longest tenured players in Los Angeles, Ethier was mired in a slump that had him looking like a shell of the two-time All-Star who once smacked 31 home runs in 2009. However, with less pressure on him now, the outfielder has regained his sweet stroke. After hitting .252 with 24 runs batted in for the first three months of the season combined, Ethier has notched a .317 average with 12 runs batted in during July alone.

The Bullpen

For as much as the Dodgers' bullpen contributed to the team's struggles pre-June 21, it has been just as instrumental in turning things around over the last 32 games. Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell and the rest of the Los Angeles relief corps has combined for a pristine 1.98 earned run average in the month of July — and that's even factoring in newly acquired Carlos Marmol's rough first two outings in blue in which he has given up four earned runs in less than three innings of work.

The biggest difference has been Kenley Jansen's reclamation of the closer role from a wholly ineffective Brandon League. Since taking over the job on June 11, Jansen has lowered his ERA from 2.45 to 2.19 while converting 12 of 14 save opportunities, including a perfect 7-for-7 in July.

A.J. Ellis

The man in charge of handling the pitching staff, A.J. Ellis has definitely played a vital role on this Dodgers team. Not only is he one of the most well-liked players in the clubhouse, but he also offers some important tools behind the plate and in the batter's box.

However, a recent publication didn't even mention Ellis when ranking baseball's best defensive catchers, even though the Dodgers' backstop is second in the majors when it comes to shutting down the opponent's running game, throwing out 47.8 percent of those trying to steal. And while his .260/.345/.725 batting slash is nothing to write home about, Ellis holds the valuable distinction of seeing more pitches per plate appearance (4.36 average) than all but two other players in the entire league.

Skip Schumaker

The Dodgers acquired Skip Schumaker in the offseason with plans to use him as a utility player. However, with all of the early injuries to his teammates, Schumaker was forced into playing every day and he struggled, batting only .241 through June. But once July rolled around, Schumaker was given a reduced workload — and it has paid dividends for the Southern California native. After compiling 60 at-bats in May and 78 at-bats in June with minimal results, Schumaker has been given only 38 at-bats so far in July but has batted .395 during this month. Not only has Schumaker been raising his average, but he has also increased his slugging percentage by belting his first two home runs of the season within the last week.

It's clear that the Dodgers are rolling, but it's harder for some to peer through the smokescreen of Puig highlights in order to catch a glimpse of the less chronicled players that have been having a huge impact on this surging ball club. The list above doesn't even include deserving candidates like starting pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-3, 3.14 ERA) and Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49 ERA), or guys like Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis who are quietly enjoying their best seasons in Los Angeles.

If all of these "other" players continue to chip in while the bigger names lead the way, it's going to be awfully scary for teams in their way.