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MLB News

A.J.'s letter-perfect game leads Dodgers into first place

Catcher totals four hits, five RBIs as club reaches top of NL West

TORONTO -- The Dodgers are in first place.

No, really.

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TORONTO -- The Dodgers are in first place.

No, really.

View Full Game Coverage

With a 14-5 Interleague whipping Monday night of the last-place Blue Jays (who committed five errors), coupled with an Arizona loss to the Cubs, the Dodgers pulled one-half game ahead of the D-backs and lead the National League West for the first time this year.

They won their fourth consecutive game out of the All-Star break and did it despite Matt Kemp's latest injury. They no longer are an offense dependent on Kemp, who walked out of the clubhouse with his left ankle in a boot and looks like he's headed back to the disabled list for the third time this year.

But the Dodgers lineup is so deep that A.J. Ellis and Skip Schumaker led the season-high 14-run onslaught, Ellis setting career highs with five RBIs, four hits (including a homer) and three runs, Schumaker slugging a three-run homer, his first as a Dodger.

"We're fortunate that the owners have put together an offensive force that can be productive even when Matt isn't in there, and first and foremost there's Hanley [Ramirez]," said Ellis. "There's a talented and deeper lineup than in the past."

That depth unleashed three four-run innings against Toronto for the Dodgers, who are 21-5 since June 21, when they trailed by 9 1/2 games. They scored a season high in runs without Kemp, who suffered a sprained ankle in a plate collision Sunday, the same day he came off the disabled list for a shoulder issue.

Carl Crawford had three hits and Andre Ethier did also, until the official scorer took one away and left him with a pair of doubles, giving him at least 20 doubles for eight consecutive seasons. The Dodgers went 10-for-19 with runners in scoring position and even stranded 11.

"From the looks of it, L.A. is going to be in it until the end," said Toronto's Mark DeRosa, a former Giant. "They're as talented a group as we've played all year."

Adrian Gonzalez walked three times, which he said is fine with him.

"I'm in a position where I want to give all the opportunities I can to Hanley because he's swinging great," said Gonzalez. "I'm a three-hole two-hitter, just moving guys over to get in position for Hanley. 'Dre is swinging the bat great and A.J. has a hot bat."

Ellis said his offensive goal this year is to be consistent.

"That's what I've been working with [hitting coaches] Mark McGwire and John Valentin," he said. "I'm using the middle of the field, that's what they preach. Hit it back to the weakest defensive player -- the pitcher. If it goes to the left, it's an accident. If it goes to the right, it's an accident."

And Ellis said the bottom of the order -- him, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis -- are benefitting from the depth in the middle.

"You can almost feel when the pitcher gets to me and Uribe and Ellis, you can see him try to take a breather," A.J. said. "It's a break for them. It's our job to take advantage and try to make it tough."

As A.J. pointed out, he isn't the only Ellis making noise. Mark Ellis is 8-for-15 on the trip.

Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu labored through 5 1/3 innings and was charged with four runs, but because of the run support he was credited with the win and is 8-3.

Ryu was working on 11 days' rest because of the All-Star break and pitching in front of a large and vocal group of supporters down the right-field line. He came up with double-play grounders in the fourth and fifth innings or he might not have qualified for the win.

"With 20 pitches an inning, you can't really say he cruised," manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm glad we got him runs. His command was a little in and out. I almost feel [the rest] was a detriment to him as far as being sharp."

The Dodgers also might have another injury to deal with, as rookie reliever Jose Dominguez tweaked a quad muscle coming off the mound as A.J. Ellis caught Jose Reyes' foul pop to end the sixth inning. Mattingly said trainers did not believe the injury to be serious.

The Dodgers, for the second consecutive game, chased an opposing starting pitcher before the third inning. This time it was Josh Johnson.

"That was pitiful, it's the only way I can put it," said Johnson. "I didn't even battle them, everything was right in the middle of the plate so nothing I can do but take it. That's a pretty poor performance."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers, A.J. Ellis, Skip Schumaker