HELENE ELLIOTT

It's hard to choose an MVP for the Dodgers, in a good way

It has been an ensemble effort as they go from 9 1/2 games out in June to 9 1/2 games ahead. Many point to Clayton Kershaw, others to Adrian Gonzalez, but there are others in the mix.

Outfielder Yasiel Puig has captured Dodgers fans' imagination with his hitting and flair for the dramatic. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has captured the No. 3 spot in the batting order by being a model of excellence with 17 home runs and 81 runs batted in through 126 games, all team highs.

Pitcher Clayton Kershaw is just about a lock to capture the Cy Young award in the National League and is getting mentions for NL most valuable player honors, too.

But when it comes to choosing the Dodgers' most valuable player, there's no single, clear choice.

Their success has been such an ensemble effort it's difficult to pick one MVP on a team that was 9 1/2 games out of first place June 22 but stayed 9 1/2 games ahead of Arizona despite an 8-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw is central to any team MVP discussion, but Gonzalez, who accounted for the Dodgers' run Sunday with a home run on the first anniversary of the blockbuster trade that brought him here from Boston, drew support from teammates. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was another popular pick.

Infielder Nick Punto chose the entire pitching staff.

"Clayton Kershaw at the top, all the way to the back end of the bullpen, it's just been so outstanding," Punto said, adding praise for Gonzalez's steadiness and the lift Ramirez provided in the middle of the lineup.

It's a tough choice, in a good way.

"That's what you want," Punto said. "A big reason we're playing as good as we are is that we have a lot of guys having good years."

Catcher A.J. Ellis considered the MVP question for a few seconds.

"Do you want me to give the company answer or do you want me to think outside the box for you?" he said.

Outside the box, please.

He chose Mark Ellis, Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker, saying the Dodgers wouldn't be where they are without that trio.

"These are guys who have really kept this team headed in the right direction when we were really struggling, guys who have grown in their voice in the clubhouse and have been veteran guys," he said.

"They're kind of meat-and-potato guys and play the game in such a professional way that they set the example for how the game is supposed to be played. Nick and Skip are two World Series champions who bring that in and show everybody here who is eager to win one what the main goal of the season should be and how you should keep grinding and playing."

To him, the conventional choice is Kershaw or Gonzalez.

"With Clayton and the work he's done, just setting the tone for our pitching staff. With all the expectations and all the attention that's on him, for him to continue to deliver start after start after start is really impressive," Ellis said. "When he pitches, not only does he give us a chance to win the game he gives a rest to our bullpen, which is huge….

"Offensively, the consistency of Adrian Gonzalez has been unmatched. His ability to drive in runs with runners in scoring position, he's obviously one of the best in baseball in hitting to the situation. Having him in our lineup, penciled in in that three-hole every single game, gives us that consistency that we need."

Matt Kemp's choices were Kershaw, Gonzalez or Ramirez. Kemp gave Gonzalez points for consistency. "But Hanley's done so much in the short period of time that he's been healthy. It's crazy if he was healthy the whole year, what his numbers would look like," Kemp said.

"Even Kershaw. His numbers are stupid. I wish we could have given him a little bit more run support there at the beginning of the year but 13-7 with a [1.72 earned-run average], he's all right. He's pretty good."

Pitcher Josh Beckett, visiting the clubhouse for a checkup a month after he underwent surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve in his neck, said in the year since the Dodgers acquired him from Boston, he has realized the extent of Kershaw's talent.

"He could possibly be the best pitcher ever," Beckett said.

Certainly, Kershaw is Beckett's National League MVP choice.

"He's pretty valuable, isn't he? Every time he's out there, he changes our team," Beckett said.

Kershaw deflected the accolades, saying Ramirez, Gonzalez and Puig have all been MVP-worthy.

"That's for you guys to decide," he said of the media. "I feel like all of us have our roles and we're all doing what we're supposed to be doing right now."

They didn't get it done Sunday, but those MVP-type efforts have put them in a place where they can shrug off two straight losses, a luxury they didn't have two months ago.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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