LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers ended August with the kind of win they'll need to repeat throughout September if they want to keep playing in October.
After double-clutch home runs from Kiké Hernandez in the seventh inning to tie and Justin Turner in the eighth for the lead, Kenley Jansen turned back into Kenley Jansen in the ninth to save a 3-2 win over the D-backs on Friday night that again left the Dodgers one game out of first place in the National League West.
The four-game showdown series is deadlocked at a tight win apiece, although read between the lines of the postgame comments and this was as close to a must-win game as the Dodgers have had all season.
"We're in August still, but it's as close to a playoff environment as you can get in August, I guess," said manager Dave Roberts, whose club has won six of seven.
While management was busy reloading by acquiring World Series winners Ryan Madson in the morning and David Freese during the game, the current players rallied after Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed a two-run, first inning homer by Paul Goldschmidt on an outside pitch, the only runs Ryu allowed in an otherwise dominant seven innings.
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To beat former teammate Zack Greinke, the Dodgers scored a third-inning run on Joc Pederson's RBI single, Hernandez's two-out pinch-hit homer (his 19th) in the seventh, then Turner's 11th homer on the first pitch of the eighth, after Greinke was allowed to bat and bunt in the top of the inning.
"I got a slider he left up, one of the few he left up all night," said Turner. "I think I was more excited for Kike's homer, two-strike opposite-field homer, pretty impressive. That got everyone pretty fired up."
But there was still drama, as on came Jansen in the worst stretch of his career as a closer. Since his previous save, Jansen had an irregular heartbeat that sent him to the hospital, then the disabled list. Then he returned from the DL and allowed ninth-inning home runs in three consecutive appearances for two losses and a blown save. On Tuesday, he came on with a six-run lead and allowed two more runs, then had a session on mechanics with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt in which he discovered a flaw.
"Honeycutt is the best," said Jansen. "It's my lower body. I was stepping more toward first base. If my lower part is in the right position, my upper body is going to follow. He showed me tapes of the last two years. He put me back in that position. Now it's just to let the last month motivate us. When J.T. hit that homer, I felt the adrenaline hit me. It felt like the playoffs, and the crowd helped, too."
Protecting a one-run lead, Jansen got A.J. Pollock on a lineout to center, then Goldschmidt flared a double to shallow right. But Jansen struck out David Peralta and got Eduardo Escobar to ground out to shortstop Manny Machado and an organization breathed a sigh of relief.
"It was a ticked-off Kenley today," said Jansen. "I was amped up."
"It was huge for Kenley," said Roberts. "He might not say how big it was. To get a save, not give up a run and to see the ball come out what we're more used to."
Turner finished August hitting .402 with an 1.213 OPS. Hernandez finished the month batting .352 with a .987 OPS.
HE SAID IT
"He looked pretty electric tonight, other than Paul Goldschmidt reaching out and hitting a Justin Turner double, a little blooper down the line." -- Turner, on Jansen
In Saturday's 6:10 p.m. start, Clayton Kershaw opposes Patrick Corbin and the D-backs. Kershaw is on one of his stretch-run rolls. It's been eight starts since he's allowed as many as three earned runs and seven starts since his last loss. He's also keeping the ball in the park, allowing only three homers since the All-Star break.