More than two months into the regular season, the Dodgers remain a subject of widespread controversy.
Owner Frank McCourt's divorce looms in the background. The use of a first-round draft pick on a player who appears determined to go to college raised new questions.
On the field?
Everything's fine, thank you very much.
The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night with a 4-3 victory at Dodger Stadium that included 10 strikeouts by Clayton Kershaw, a two-run home run by Manny Ramirez and four hits by James Loney. Their lead over second-place San Diego in the National League West increased to a full game.
The last time the Dodgers swept the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium was in 1988.
"It seems like everything's working together," third baseman Casey Blake said.
What Manager Joe Torre said has pleased him more than the results in the process.
"We're playing well," he said. "More important than first place is the fact that every time we come to the ballpark, we expect to win."
Pitching, which was responsible for their last-place standing at the end of April, has become their foundation. And the teams the Dodgers beat in their last two series, St. Louis and Atlanta, started their days atop their respective divisions.
"We believe we're just as good as anybody," Blake said. "We're not surprised we beat good teams."
And good pitchers, Blake neglected to mention.
The Dodgers, who won a game started by Chris Carpenter on Tuesday, beat Adam Wainwright on Wednesday.
The Dodgers scored all of their runs in the first three innings, two on Ramirez's first-inning home run and two more in the third on a single by Blake DeWitt.
The Dodgers collected eight hits and drew five walks against Wainwright, who entered the game with a 2.05 earned-run average.
"We made him work," Matt Kemp said. "He had to throw strikes and then we made him pay a little bit."
Kershaw threw as many pitches in seven innings (113) as Wainwright did in six.
Only one of them was lamented by Kershaw: a fourth-inning breaking ball that didn't break and was crushed into the left-field pavilion for a three-run home run by Ryan Ludwick.
"That one pitch to Ludwick is the one pitch I would like to have back," Kershaw said. "Otherwise, I think I pitched all right."
Kershaw (6-3) held the Cardinals to four hits and walked only two. The victory was his fifth in seven starts.
"When you go against a guy like Wainwright, you have to make it hold up," Kershaw said.
Torre applauded the 22-year-old's poise and competitive edge, laughingly noting how when he took him out of the game in the eighth inning, Kershaw asked him, "You sure?"
The bullpen finished the job.
Ronald Belisario pitched a perfect eighth inning.
And for the second consecutive day, Jonathan Broxton earned a save by facing the heart of the Cardinals' lineup, starting with Albert Pujols.
Pujols singled and Yadier Molina hit a two-out ground-rule double, but Broxton preserved the lead by forcing Randy Winn to ground out to third.
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