Dodgers-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Matt Kemp hasn't been much help to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the last three weeks.

If they want to have any chance of claiming the NL's second wild card, they'll need more performances from him like his last.

Kemp and the Dodgers close a tough nine-game road trip Thursday night with the finale of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres.

With seven games remaining, Los Angeles is tied with Milwaukee, 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's last playoff spot.

The Dodgers (80-75) improved to 4-4 on their road trip with an 8-2 win Wednesday. Matt Kemp had four hits and drove in four runs - both matching season highs - while falling a triple shy of the cycle and Aaron Harang gave up four hits in 5 1-3 scoreless innings.

"It just feels good to get a win,'' Kemp said. "That's all that really matters. Right now we have to win out to at least give us a chance to make the playoffs. We can't worry who's in front of us. We just have to play our game and see where we're at at the end.''

Kemp's big night led a rare offensive outburst for Los Angeles, which had lost 12 of its previous 18 while scoring more than three runs in only four of those contests. Kemp's struggles contributed to that slide - he was hitting .167 (11 of 66) with 20 strikeouts over his previous 16 games.

Although Kemp was 1 for his previous 18 against San Diego entering Wednesday, he's still batting .407 (24 for 59) with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 14 games against Los Angeles' NL West rival this year, including 11 for 26 with three homers and 12 RBIs in six games at Petco Park.

Closing a road swing that included series against East-leading Washington and Central champion Cincinnati - clubs which have already clinched postseason berths - Los Angeles hands the ball to Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.74 ERA), who hasn't been much help in the Dodgers' playoff race.

Capuano has a seven-start winless streak, going 0-3 with a 6.13 ERA. He gave up four runs in five innings of a 4-1 loss at Washington last Thursday, the fourth time during that span he failed to pitch beyond the fifth inning.

"I felt good, I felt strong," Capuano told the Dodgers' official website. "I just kind of made a couple of mistakes with runners on base tonight."

The left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts against the Padres this year, including a loss July 15 in which he allowed four unearned runs over 6 2-3 innings of a 7-2 defeat. Capuano is 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA in four career starts at Petco.

The Padres (74-81), who came in having lost only one of their previous 10 home series, will hand the ball to Casey Kelly (2-2, 5.55) in his first appearance against the Dodgers.

Kelly gave up two runs and seven hits and issued four walks over 4 1-3 innings of a 5-1 loss at San Francisco last Friday.

"It was uncharacteristic of Chris to walk so many," manager Bud Black said. "They came back to get him. The ball-strike ratio wasn't very good. His pitches were around the zone. He wasn't wild but couldn't hit his spot. That came back to haunt him.''

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