The Los Angeles Dodgers’ current winning streak started with a victory over Arizona. One week and four victories over the struggling Diamondbacks later, the Dodgers are alone atop the NL West standings.
The Dodgers look to increase their lead in the division while trying for an eighth consecutive victory and a home sweep of the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.
Los Angeles (72-70) scored all of its runs in the fifth and sixth innings of a 7-2 victory over Arizona on Saturday to move past the Diamondbacks for a one-half game lead in the West.
The Dodgers, who won eight in a row from April 25-May 3, are in first place for the first time since April 4 thanks to a streak that started with a 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks (71-70) on Aug. 30. That victory snapped an eight-game losing stretch that left Los Angeles 4 1/2 games behind Arizona at the time.
“We’ve been on the other end of this thing,” said manager Joe Torre of the Dodgers, who have outscored the opposition 47-15 during the winning streak. “The teams that handle the bad spells the best usually come out on top.”
Arizona has dropped four straight to Los Angeles and 10 of its last 14 overall. The Diamondbacks had either held or shared first place since April 5.
“We got hammered two days in a row here and have lost the last four to them, so we need to respond tomorrow,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ll see what we’re made of (Sunday). We’ve been in first place for quite a while. Now it’s our turn to respond tomorrow and take it back.”
Manny Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and five RBIs as the Dodgers improved to 9-8 versus the Diamondbacks heading into the final game of the season series. Ramirez is batting .403 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 34 games since being acquired from Boston. He is 22-for-44 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 13 career games versus Arizona.
“One swing of the bat, he can change the game, the momentum,” Saturday’s winning pitcher Chad Billingsley said. “He just brings so much energy, so much life, it just relaxes all of us.”
In his first game since missing three due to severe headaches, Justin Upton was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Arizona, which hasn’t been swept in a three-game set by Los Angeles since July 3-5, 2006. Upton is 10-for-24 with three doubles and five RBIs versus the Dodgers this season.
This contest was scheduled to be a pitching matchup between future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, but Torre felt rookie Clayton Kershaw (3-5, 4.50 ERA) matches up better with the Diamondbacks than Maddux. Arizona, meanwhile, will start rookie Max Scherzer (0-2, 2.65) after Johnson was scratched because of a sore left shoulder.
Kershaw allowed three runs and three hits while striking out six in seven innings of an 8-4 win over San Diego on Tuesday. The 20-year-old left-hander didn’t factor in the decision after allowing four hits in six scoreless innings of a 2-1 loss to Arizona on Aug. 1.
Scherzer, the Diamondbacks’ prized pitching prospect who was recalled up from the minors Aug. 29, has lost two of his three starts, but hasn’t made one since May 17. The right-hander has allowed two hits in three scoreless innings of relief against Los Angeles.