LOS ANGELES -- There are times Carl Crawford can offer reminders of how he once landed a $142 million contract.
Crawford was an unstoppable force Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, going three for three with a home run, a stolen base, three runs batted in and three runs in the Dodgers' series-opening 8-6 victory over the San Diego Padres.
The left fielder is on one of his trademark hot streaks, batting .500 (16 for 32) over his last nine games. He has had six multi-hit games over that period.
If last season marked Crawford's return to the field -- he played in only 31 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2012 -- this season marks his return to normalcy.
"I feel way better than last year," Crawford said.
Crawford has recovered his All-Star form at a particularly opportune time for the Dodgers, as what once looked as if it would be a glorified victory lap suddenly feels as if it could be the most dangerous stretch of the season.
The Dodgers recently ended what was supposed to be the most difficult portion of their season, a 31-day stretch in which they played 29 games, 26 of which were against teams with winning records and 18 of which were on the road.
They emerged from that period with a 16-13 record, even after they were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend. The Dodgers lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West increased from one game to 31/2 games.
Tuesday was the start of another phase.
They came out of their day off Monday with 36 games remaining on their regular-season schedule, of which only nine were against teams with winning records.
But manager Don Mattingly disputed the notion that the final six weeks of the season would be a cakewalk.
"It's hard to look down the road," Mattingly said. "At this time of the year, it's going to be hard to win games, for everybody. Every team you play is dangerous.
"San Diego is playing well. You just come ready to play. You can't worry about yesterday. We can't worry about two weeks from now."
Particularly with how the Dodgers' disabled list has grown in recent weeks.
The original starter for the game Tuesday was left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. With Ryu sidelined because of a strained buttock muscle, recently acquired journeyman right-hander Kevin Correia pitched in his place.
Correia was knocked around by the Padres, who scored four runs against him in five innings.
Ryu isn't the only key player who might not be available in the coming weeks. Paul Maholm will not pitch again this season and Josh Beckett might not, either.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is on the disabled list, as is third baseman Juan Uribe.
Ramirez's absence prompted the Dodgers to call up Erisbel Arruebarrena from triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday.
While Miguel Rojas was a significant defensive upgrade from Ramirez, his offense was lacking. Rojas batted .174 in his last 27 games.
Arruebarrena, who signed a $25 million contract with the Dodgers in the spring, is also considered a defensive specialist.
However, Mattingly said that he believed Arruebarrena had the potential to develop into an above-average hitter.
"I think he can hit a little bit," Mattingly said. "The ball comes off his bat well. It sounds like in Cuba he didn't put a whole lot of emphasis on his hitting, it was all about defense.
"We feel like there's some up-side there with his bat. We'll see where it goes."
Mattingly was right, if only for a night. Arruebarrena drove in the second run in the Dodgers' two-run second inning, as he singled in Justin Turner.
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