Three one-run victories - including two in walk-off fashion - have made for an exciting start to September for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They'll try to pick up a fourth straight win Tuesday night by sending Clayton Kershaw to the hill against the visiting San Diego Padres and the surprisingly hot Eric Stults.
The Dodgers ended August with an extra-inning loss to Arizona - their fifth in six games - and they've continued living dangerously into the last full month of the regular season as they pursue a playoff spot.
After a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Saturday, Adrian Gonzalez hit a walk-off two-run double for a 5-4 victory over Arizona on Sunday. On Monday, A.J. Ellis' RBI single in the bottom of the 11th gave Los Angeles a 4-3 win in the series opener with San Diego.
"It's September, now it's time to go,'' Ellis said. "A couple guys in the clubhouse called it fourth-quarter September. We just want to get in (the playoffs).''
Andre Ethier hit a tying solo homer with one out in the ninth for the Dodgers (73-63), who remained one-half game behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot and 4 1/2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco.
"Other than getting our heart rates up, we're not making it easy on ourselves,'' Ethier said. "That feeling of knowing we can win these games late is being fortified better. It shows all the guys on this team we're not going to roll over. You got to go out there and earn it.''
The offense, though, hasn't always provided Kershaw (12-8, 2.85 ERA) with the necessary help recently.
Kershaw didn't get any in his latest outing, giving up two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss to Arizona on Thursday. It marked the second time in his last three starts the Dodgers have failed to score for him, accounting for the only defeats during a stretch in which he's 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA.
The left-hander is 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last six starts versus the Padres (62-74), including three this season.
San Diego will counter with Stults (5-2, 2.43), who has gone 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts since re-entering the rotation Aug. 6. He gave up an unearned run in six innings of an 8-2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
"He's been tremendous. He keeps us in every game, he works quick, he throws strikes," third baseman Chase Headley told the team's official website.
Possibly just as impressive, Stults is 7 for 17 at the plate - including a three-RBI performance versus Arizona on Aug. 24.
"I keep thinking it's just luck," Stults said.
The left-hander went 8-10 with a 4.84 ERA in 24 starts and 11 relief appearances with the Dodgers from 2006-09, and he's never faced his former team. However, Hanley Ramirez, who homered Monday, is 3 for 6 with a double off Stults.
San Diego's latest loss was its third straight following a stretch in which it won 10 of 11. Headley hit a two-run homer and drove in another run one day after going 4 for 5 with a homer and a career-high six RBIs in an 11-10 loss to Colorado.
Headley is hitting .435 over his last five games, and he's batting .361 with six homers and 16 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak versus the Dodgers.
Los Angeles has won 11 of the last 13 meetings at Chavez Ravine.