Dodgers sweep Diamondbacks to finally trim Giants' NL West lead

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias (7) delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the second inning at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the second inning at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Their pursuit of the San Francisco Giants was beginning to feel like a Sisyphean task for the Dodgers, who couldn’t seem to gain ground on the National League West leaders no matter how well they played.

The Dodgers won the first five games of their six-game homestand and couldn’t cut into San Francisco’s lead. They won seven of nine entering Wednesday and actually lost ground because the Giants had won nine straight.

But the Giants finally slipped Wednesday night, and the Dodgers took advantage, pushing that huge stone closer to the top of the hill with a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in front of a crowd of 46,520 in Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers’ sixth straight win, combined with San Francisco’s 9-6 loss to San Diego, moved the Dodgers to within 1 1/2 games of the Giants with 15 games left and marked the first time since Sept. 4 that the Dodgers had gained ground on their division rivals.

“We just have to take care of us,” said closer Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side in the ninth for his 33rd save. “We can’t worry about the Giants. They’ve been playing unbelievable baseball, but if we take care of business and play Dodgers baseball, I don’t think there’s anybody better than us in this league.

“Of course, we want to catch up. Of course, we want to win the division. But at the end of the day, no matter how we get in, we have to do us, and I think special things can happen.”

Justin Turner and Max Muncy continued to put Albert Pujols’ bats to good use, Turner collecting three singles and scoring twice and Muncy hitting his team-leading 34th homer and a single to lead a 14-hit attack. Gavin Lux provided two big RBI singles from the bottom of the order.

Julio Urías, pitching on a night the Dodgers paid tribute to fellow countryman Fernando Valenzuela in a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of Fernandomania, threw five good-but-not-great innings, giving up two runs and three hits to earn his major league-leading 18th win.

The left-hander, who was slowed by major shoulder surgery early in his career, is 18-3 with a 2.99 ERA and will have three more starts to become the first Dodgers pitcher to win 20 games since Clayton Kershaw in 2014.

“Yeah, that would be incredible,” Urías said through an interpreter. “This is the first full season where I feel the reins have been pulled off and I’ve been able to do what I’ve done. It’s been an incredible year.”

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the second after loading the bases with one out on Turner’s single to left-center, Will Smith’s walk and Cody Bellinger’s soft single to shallow right that Daulton Varsho was unable to make a diving catch of.

Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy hits a solo home run.
Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy hits a solo home run off of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly in the bottom of the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Lux followed with an RBI single to right. The Dodgers still had the bases loaded with one out, but the inning ended when Urías grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.

The Diamondbacks avoided such an inning-ending double play and twice in the top of the fourth.

Ketel Marte walked and took second on Christian Walker’s one-out single to right. Josh Rojas followed with a hard grounder to second baseman Trea Turner, who shoveled the ball to shortstop Corey Seager for the second out.

But Rojas narrowly beat Seager’s relay to first to keep the inning alive. Rojas stole second, and Henry Ramos rolled a two-run single to center for a 2-1 lead.

The Dodgers regained the lead in the fourth, an inning that opened with Justin Turner’s single to center and Smith’s double to left. Bellinger grounded out to second, scoring Turner and advancing Smith to third and Lux smoked an RBI single to right to make it 3-2.

Urías bunted Lux to second, and Mookie Betts followed with a drive to deep left, but Ramos saved a run with a spectacular leaping grab near the top of the wall to end the inning, the left fielder holding onto the ball despite slamming face-first into a padded section of the wall next to the Dodgers’ bullpen.

The Dodgers pushed the lead to 4-2 in the fifth when Muncy crushed a solo homer into the right-center field pavilion.

They went on to load the bases with two outs when Justin Turner singled and took third on Smith’s single, Smith advancing to second on the throw, and Bellinger was intentionally walked. But Lux flied out to left to end the inning.

Arizona trimmed the deficit to 4-3 in the top of the sixth when Christian Walker hit a solo homer to center off Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford, but Trea Turner’s speed led to a big insurance run for the Dodgers in the sixth.

Pinch-hitter Matt Beaty was hit by a pitch, and Betts singled. Muncy grounded into a 6-3 double play, Beaty taking third, and Turner beat out a slow roller to second for an RBI infield single and a 5-3 lead.

Seager singled Trea Turner to third, but Justin Turner flied to center to end the inning.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.