Sweep Gives Dodgers 1 1/2 game lead

In a game that was wilder than the 5-3 final score would indicate, the Dodgers swept Arizona in their final meeting of the regular season, put their eighth straight win on the board and solidified their lead in the National League West with only 19 games left on the schedule.

The Dodgers hit the road for a most crucial road trip: three games in San Diego and Colorado plus four in Pittsburgh. Arizona plays three at San Francisco, then comes home for three with Cincinnati and four more with the Giants. The Dodgers are only a .412 team on the road (28-40) while Arizona is just a touch better at .437 (31-40). The Dodgers have a home edge of 445-30 to 40-31.

Los Angeles went from trailing by 4 1/2 games, five in the loss column, to a 1 1/2 game lead by winning eight of the last 10 while Arizona lost seven of 10.

"I think it's pretty incredible to expect to come back and take those eight losses and turn them around in that big a hurry," manager Joe Torre said. "It's one of those Dramamine trips—it's up and down and you strap yourself in, because that's what's going to happen this time of year."

The Dodgers' final 19 games are against teams that have losing records and are a combined 83 games under .500. They have six left with San Diego (55-88), three with Colorado (67-77), four with Pittsburgh (60-82) and six with San Francisco (62-80).

"There is no psychological advantage," Torre said. "The only thing is that you can control your own destiny. You don't need to watch the scoreboard. If you win your share of games, you're going to finish in first place. What that share is, we don't know. And if you don't win, it's nobody's fault but your own."

Lady Luck pretty much stayed on the shady side of the the street, or stadium, as the Dodgers hung on for the important win.

Nomar Garciaparra, almost forgotten on the Dodgers bench, entered the game late and knocked in the winning run with a long fly ball and then playing first base, saved it with a diving catch of a line drive with two on and two out in the ninth.

Originally billed as a battle between a pair of veterans, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, who had won 648 games and nine Cy Young Awards between them, it opened with 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw, the pride of Chavez Ravine, and the Diamondbacks 24-year-old Max Scherzer.

Scherzer was born 2 years and 3 months after Johnson made his big league debut and Kershaw was born 1 1/2 years after Maddux threw his first pitch in the majors.

Scherzer, after a rocky start, out-pitched his counterpart on an afternoon when Kershaw had trouble keeping his pitches in the strike zone and those pitches that were in the zone, inside the park.

The Young Diamondback, who received a $4 million signing bonus (resulting in his teammates calling him Max-amillion), stumbled in the first inning but only by a inch or two.

Kershaw did a perfect Harry Houdini routine to open the game, loading he bases on a single, a double and a walk with one out. Then finally, after 30 pitches, he retired the side without a run scoring.

In the bottom of the inning, Andre Ethier singled with one out and moved to third when Manny Ramirez line a shot off the left field wall for a double. James Loney's broken bat single just cleared the leaping Arizona second baseman and L.A. led 2-0.

Now it was Scherzer's turn to imitate a celebrity and he apparently chose Nolan Ryan because, after striking out Casey Blake and Matt Kemp to end the first inning, went on to whiff nine of the next 13 Dodgers he faced, eight out of nine in the second through fifth frames and finish with 11 K's, punching out Matt Kemp, Casey Blake and Angel Berroa twice each.

Meanwhile, Kershaw was creatively wild, going to a three-ball count nine times during his four inning start. That seemed to set the norm for Dodger pitchers because they had 15 three-ball counts during the game while only walking four.

On a 3-1 count, Catcher Chris Snyder hit a shot into the left field seats in the second. On a 3-2 count, Adam Dunn lined one into about the same place in the third. In the fourth, Mark Reynolds singled with a three-ball count and Snyder went to 3-1 again, and this time he doubled into the corner to give Arizona a 3-2 lead.

After 92 pitches, Kershaw was removed and the remarkable Dodgers bullpen took over. Scott Proctor, Chan-Ho Park, Hong=Chic Kuo (5-2) who got the win and Jonathan Broxton (save #13) who mopped up, cooled off the Dbacks and kept them away from home plate.

Chad Qualls was tagged with a run in the sixth when Ethier walked, moved to third on a single to right by Ramirez and scored when Loney knocked in his third run of the game with a long fly to center field to tie the game.

The lucky seventh saw the Dodgers take the lead when Blake DeWitt opened with a ground rule double over the center field fence. Angel Berroa dropped a neat bunt to the right of the mound and Adam Dunn raced in to field it, slipped and fell on his billfold for an error. Nomar Garciaparra, who came into the game on a double switch to play third base, put the Dodgers in front with a sac fly.

Right fielder Justin Upton caught the ball, then dropped it attempting to throw to the plate. Television replays seemed to show that DeWitt did not tag on the fly ball. Berroa moved to second base on the fumble and Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin had a long discussion with the umpires after the play but was unable to change anything.

With two out, Ethier smashed a hot shot at shortstop Steven Drew and he fumbled it long enough for Berroa to scamper in from third base. The ball was ruled a hit (too hot to handle) and an error, allowing Berroa to move to third., giving the Dodgers an insurance run.

Kuo, who worked a scoreless sixth, gave up a double and a walk in the seventh and manager Joe Torre didn't hesitate, calling in Jonathan Broxton.

Built much like Eric Gagné (think grizzly bear) was firing bullets from the outset, hitting 100 on the gun and striking out the final two in the eighth to leave both runner on base. He got a ground ball and a strikeout in the ninth before pinch-hitter Chad Tracy stroked a double into the left field corner and Dunn drew a walk.

Then Connor Jackson sliced a shot that was headed towards right field but Garciaparra, now playing first base in a second double-switch, made a spectacular diving catch that ended the games.

So the Dodgers celebrated, will take a bus to San Diego tonight (where they have traditionally struggled) and begin the final grind toward the pennant. There can be no looking ahead or back, it's one game at a time against each team in turn.

And after the humbling eight-game losing streak, and the unthinkable sweep by Washington, you must assume your opponent is the 1927 Yankees, not the four below .500 teams left on the schedule. "I think if you get caught in that trap," Torre said. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Tonight's match-ups include RHP Greg Maddux (7-11, 4.18 ERA) and RHP Cha Seung Baek (4-10, 5.36 ERA) for San Diego. Maddux compiled a 3-4 record with a 2.62 ERA in 86 innings over 14 starts at PETCO Park this season while pitching for the Padres. He also held opponents to a .225 batting average.

Tuesday, RHP Hiroki Kuroda (8-10, 3.96) vs. LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 11.25)
Wednesday, RHP Derek Lowe (12-11, 3.53) vs. LHP Shawn Estes (2-1, 2.97)

 Score by innings
Arizona	        011 100 000-3
Los Angeles	200 001 20x-5
 
 Los Angeles	   ab r  h  bi  ave
Martin c	   4  0  0  0  .280
Ethier rf	   3  2  2  1  .293
Ramirez lf	   3  1  2  0  .410
Loney 1b	   3  0  1  3  .301
 Broxton p	   0  0  0  0  .000
Blake 3b	   3  0  0  0  .268
 Kuo p	           0  0  0  0  .258
 Hu 2b	           1  0  1  0  .165
Kemp cf	           4  0  0  0  .287
DeWitt 3b	   4  1  2  0  .260
Berroa ss	   3  1  0  0  .235
Kershaw p	   0  0  0  0  .045
 Proctor p	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Young ph	   1  0  0  0  .246
 Park p	           0  0  0  0  .111
 Garciaparra 3b-1b 0  0  0  1  .234
  Totals	   29 5  8 5
  Arizona	   36 3 10 3

 Errors- Ramirez (2), Kuo (1). 2b hits- 
Ramirez (9), DeWitt (12). S- Berroa, Kershaw. 
SF- Garciaparra, Loney. RBI- Loney 3 (79), 
Garciaparra (22), Ethier (67). SB- Kemp 33. 
LOB- Los angeles 6 Arizona 8.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kershaw	        4.0  6  3-3  1  4  4.60
Proctor	        1.0  1  0-0  1  0  6.55
Park	        1.0  1  0-0  0  2  2.98
Kou (5-2        1.0  1  0-0  2  1  2.03
Broxton (sv 13)	1.2  1  0-0  1  3  3.36 
 T- 3:30. Att- 54,137.
Dodger Blue Notes --Andre Ethier came into the game hitting .457 in front of Manny Ramirez. ...Hong-Chih Kuo walked his third man in The Dodgers have won eight in a row for the first time since April 25-May 3. They also completed their first undefeated homestand of at least six games since May 19-24, 2006, when they swept a pair of three-game sets from the Angels and Rockies. ...Los Angeles won its season series with Arizona, 10-8, for the third straight year. The club won the last five and seven of the last eight between the two teams. ...The Dodgers' 20-6 home record since the All-Star break is the best in the Majors. They've won 15 of 18 at home, averaging 5.4 runs per game in that stretch. ...The Dodgers honored servicemen and women from all over Los Angeles on Sunday as part of Heroes Day.  

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