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Dodgers tee up clincher by bashing D-backs

Kemp, Hanley return to spark offense as LA cuts magic number to two

PHOENIX -- Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez returned to the lineup Tuesday night and the Dodgers snapped a four-game losing streak with an offensive eruption.

Connect those dots.

Full Game Coverage

PHOENIX -- Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez returned to the lineup Tuesday night and the Dodgers snapped a four-game losing streak with an offensive eruption.

Connect those dots.

Full Game Coverage

A 9-3 victory over the D-backs halved the magic number to two, so a Dodgers win over Arizona on Wednesday or Thursday clinches the National League West. Kemp had four hits and three RBIs, Ramirez reached base four times (three walks), while Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez slugged two-run homers and Zack Greinke pitched the team to the verge of celebration.

"When it happens, it happens," said Gonzalez, no slave to superstition and willing to discuss clinching. "We've got a [10 ½]-game lead with 11 to go -- puts us in good position."

Kemp, Ramirez and Gonzalez all were replaced before the game was over. Kemp and Ramirez said they were fine; Gonzalez had a quad cramp, but said if the game and the division race weren't such blowouts, he would have kept playing.

It was Gonzalez the night before who said the club's four-game losing streak wasn't anything that a healthy lineup wouldn't fix. He didn't mind being proved correct.

"Yeah, and we score runs," he said. "We have a really deep lineup when the guys are in there and it makes it easier for all of us."

On the mound, Greinke added to his pile of impressive numbers. He allowed two runs in six innings and is 15-3 overall with a 2.75 ERA. In his last 10 starts, he's 7-0 without allowing more than two runs in any of them. The seven-game win streak is a single-season personal best and he's 6-0 against NL West opponents.

But as the Dodgers showed Monday night, when Hyun-Jin Ryu's two-hitter wasn't good enough, the depleted offense was in a rut. They went into battle Tuesday night still without Andre Ethier (ankle) and Carl Crawford (back), but Ramirez and Kemp lengthened the lineup and added pressure on Arizona starter Patrick Corbin.

In the first inning, Kemp followed one-out singles by Mark Ellis and Ramirez with a two-out, two-run double. Uribe followed with a two-run homer, his fifth home run this month.

"It looked like they were really comfortable in there," said Corbin. "That's not something a pitcher likes."

It was Kemp's first start since July 21, when he turned an ankle, later straining a hamstring. It was Ramirez's first start since coming out of Thursday night's game with an irritated nerve in his lower back that required cortisone injections.

"Hanley's timing is ridiculous," manager Don Mattingly said. "He hasn't played in six days and he's right on it."

The July 21 game in Washington marked Kemp's return from an inflamed A/C joint in his shoulder. He had a homer, single, double and walk that game but turned an ankle on a slide into home after not running hard.

Tuesday night, he doubled into the left-field corner, doubled high off the center-field wall, singled to center and singled to right.

"He can be huge, from the standpoint of facing lefties and giving us another option," Mattingly said. "Matt's Matt. The last two games he's played, in D.C. he was ridiculous and tonight unbelievable."

The Dodgers added to the lead in the third inning when Ramirez led off with a walk and Gonzalez launched an 0-2 pitch for a towering home run, his 21st. Kemp followed with another double, high off the center-field wall, that chased Corbin for the shortest start of his career.

"I've never seen him swing the bat like he is right now," Greinke said of Kemp. "I only faced him a couple times. People talk about how good of a hitter he is. That was pretty exciting."

Kemp said the decision nearly three weeks ago to halt his Minor League rehab assignment at Class A Rancho Cucamonga and report to the club's Spring Training complex at Camelback Ranch-Glendale has proved pivotal, even though his time there was interrupted by a tight hamstring after the ankle healed.

"People don't understand what it means to get 15 at-bats a day," said Kemp, who hit in simulated games against the organization's better Minor League pitchers assembled for instructional league. "I know they're not up here, but you get your timing down and still have to get good pitches to hit.

"And it builds your confidence that you can do something at the plate. It's about the confidence. Confidence makes all the difference, if it's a pitcher getting a hitter out or a hitter getting a hit. That many at-bats definitely help your confidence. I could tell by the second or third day in Arizona. Everything is feeling good right now. I'm happy with today and happy we got a win."

Greinke made it 7-0 by leading off the fourth with a walk, taking second on Yasiel Puig's groundout and scoring from second on Ellis' flare single inside first base. Ellis scored on Kemp's two-out single. Kemp left for a pinch-runner in the seventh inning.

Ramirez walked for a third time in the eighth, ran gingerly while scoring on Michael Young's triple and was replaced on defense in the bottom of the inning.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe