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ARI@LAD: Saunders pitches 7 2/3 solid innings

As the Arizona Diamondbacks look to continue their run toward their first National League West title since 2007, they'll have to keep rolling through divisional opponents.

Arizona opens up a three-game set with the Dodgers on Monday in the midst of playing 22 straight games and 28 of its last 31 against the NL West.

While the D-backs have won more games since the All-Star break than every team but the Phillies, one thing that has remained consistent all season long has been the variety of lineup cards manager Kirk Gibson has filled out. Entering Monday, Gibson had penciled 107 different lineups (not including pitchers) over 147 games this season.

Sunday's newest change was hitting newly acquired Aaron Hill in the three-spot, a position he hasn't hit in since 2008.

"In reality, I think the game has changed a bit right now," Gibson said. "If you have the personnel, [it's changed] even more so. When I was a player, you wanted to play 155, 160 games. Maybe there's no reason for that; maybe there is. But you have to keep everybody healthy. You have to keep everybody engaged. Maybe I look at it a little differently, but you have to know your players."

Arizona could use the version of Joe Saunders who pitched so well during the midsummer months. Saunders came out of the gate slow this year, starting the season 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA, though he emerged in early June, posting two straight months with a sub-3.00 ERA. But more of the early-season struggles resumed when August began, and the 30-year-old hasn't found his way since, allowing at least three earned runs in six of his last seven starts.

The Dodgers season may be ending without a postseason berth, but they're still plugging away while testing some new bats in the lineup. The Los Angeles lineup on Sunday consisted of three players (Matt Kemp, Rod Barajas and Tony Gwynn) who started Opening Day.

Juan Rivera has flashed a strong bat since coming over from Toronto in July, prompting general manager Ned Colletti to believe that the club does not need a major offseason overhaul.

"It's never been easy to build through free agency and I really don't like to do it," he said. "We do it when pressed, when we don't have a player coming through the system or on the Major League roster, but it's always more precarious than developing or trading."

Left-hander Ted Lilly, who hasn't lost since Aug. 15, will take the mound on Monday. His nine strikeouts against the Nationals his last time out were his most since fanning nine against the D-backs on July 17.

D-backs: Bullpen stepping up
After Josh Collmenter lasted just four innings in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Padres, Zach Duke, Ryan Cook and Brad Ziegler combined to pitch five innings of one-run ball while keeping Arizona in the game. The bolstered bullpen has perhaps been the D-backs' biggest improvement this season.

In 2010, Arizona's bullpen lost 32 games and compiled a 5.74 ERA, both marks were the worst in the Majors. This year, though, the relief crew has kept its ERA to 3.75 and has a 20-15 record.

"It's certainly one of the elements [in what's happened this year]. No question about it," Gibson said Friday. "When [closer J.J. Putz] was on the disabled listed, David [Hernandez] came in and was perfect. When we've had the lead in the eighth inning or after, we've been exceptional. Basically, what we're doing is shortening our game. There's stability. It makes it much easier to manage."

Putz has converted 17 straight saves since July 27 and is two shy of reaching 40.

Dodgers: Ethier set for Wednesday surgery
Outfielder Andre Ethier is slated to have arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He'll then likely rehab for a week before heading to his home in Arizona to continue rehab with former Dodgers physical therapist Sue Falsone.

Ethier expects to be ready for Spring Training next year.

"It doesn't sound like it's major," said manager Don Mattingly. "This will give him the most time to have a normal offseason as far as training."

Worth noting
• Dodgers closer Javy Guerra, who saved Saturday night's win despite a split fingernail, was not available on Sunday, but Mattingly said it won't affect the way he'll use Guerra going forward.

• Mattingly said the Dodgers are done with callups for the rest of the year in an attempt to get playing time for the players already on the team.

• D-backs outfielder Chris Young stole his 20th base Sunday to give him at least 20 for the third time in his career. Justin Upton stole his 21st base, a new career-high. Comments