Dodgers ‘pen is mighty enough, and so is offense in 8-5 win over Cubs
The Dodgers could be National League West champions by Tuesday night.
Here’s what they have to do: Beat the second-place San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on Monday, and again the next day.
“That’d be really nice,” Matt Kemp said.
The Dodgers lowered their magic number to win the division to three on Sunday with an 8-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field that was pitched entirely by their bullpen. Their lineup continued scoring at a breathtaking rate, as Kemp drove in four runs, Yasiel Puig scored a career-high four, and Adrian Gonzalez raised his major league-leading runs-batted-in total to 112.
They won three of four games at Wrigley Field and six of 10 on their three-city trip, including two of three against the Giants at AT&T Park.
The Dodgers return home for their final six regular-season games with a 41/2-game lead, after finishing with a 49-32 road record, the best in baseball.
Kemp now wants the Dodgers to finish the season with the best overall record in the NL. They are 89-67; the NL East champion Washington Nationals are 91-64.
“I want to win out,” Kemp said. “I want to have the best record in the National League. That would say something about our team.”
In the playoffs, that would translate to home-field advantage through the league championship series.
Momentum is on the Dodgers’ side. Over the last three days, the Giants were swept by the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
Giants leadoff hitter Angel Pagan made only three plate appearances in that series because of back problems and might not play against the Dodgers. First baseman/left fielder Michael Morse also could miss the series because of a strained side muscle.
Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren said the Giants aren’t the same team without Pagan, and that Pagan means as much to the Giants as Dee Gordon does to the Dodgers.
“It changes a lot,” Haren said. “He’s definitely their catalyst.”
Haren is bracing himself for Pagan’s return, saying, “We don’t want to be disappointed if he’s playing.”
Haren is scheduled to start the series opener, followed by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
Haren’s turn in the rotation originally fell on Sunday. But with Hyun-Jin Ryu nursing a sore shoulder that will prevent him from pitching Monday, the Dodgers opted to push back Haren’s start by a day.
Reliever Jamey Wright started against the Cubs in Haren’s place. He was one of six pitchers the Dodgers used in the so-called bullpen game.
Wright gave up a run in two innings. His replacement, Carlos Frias, was charged with three runs in three innings.
The damage was offset by the Dodgers’ offense.
“The biggest thing is that we were able to put runs up on the board,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez each doubled in a run in the first inning against Cubs starter Jacob Turner to move the Dodgers in front, 2-0. Kemp launched a two-run home run in the third inning that extended the lead to 4-1.
For Kemp, the home run was his seventh this month, the most in baseball, and 23rd of the season.
“He’s been great,” Mattingly said. “It seems like a lot of our guys have been stepping up. He’s certainly one of those guys.”
Chris Perez (1-3) pitched a perfect sixth inning and recorded the first out of the seventh, an effort that would earn him the win in an official scorer’s decision. Paco Rodriguez completed the seventh, after which the Dodgers led, 7-4.
Pedro Baez gave up a solo home run to Welington Castillo in the eighth inning that narrowed the margin to 7-5, before Juan Uribe’s RBI single in the ninth gave the Dodgers an insurance run.
Kenley Jansen sealed the victory by retiring three consecutive batters in the ninth inning to leave Cubs stranded on second and third base.
“It played out good, now that it’s over,” Mattingly said with a laugh.
But Mattingly remained measured with his words when talking about the division title.
“Happy about today,” he said. “We won a game today, that’s all that matters right now. It will be the same tomorrow.”
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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