PITTSBURGH — After the Dodgers won the first two games of their series with the faltering Pirates, Pittsburgh Manager Clint Hurdle said that playing contending teams such as the Dodgers was expected to be hard.
"Right now, we've got a lot of hard going on," Hurdle said.
And that was before the Pirates faced Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers' surging offense Wednesday.
Kershaw had another strong outing and the Dodgers knocked out 15 hits, tying a season high, as they rolled to a 9-3 win over Pittsburgh for their fourth consecutive win.
Matt Kemp drove in three runs and seven Dodgers had runs batted in, including Kershaw, who had a run-scoring sacrifice fly and two singles.
The win lifted the Dodgers into sole possession of first place in the National League West by one game over the San Francisco Giants, who lost to the Washington Nationals after losing slugger Melky Cabrera to a 50-game drug suspension earlier in the day.
It was the first time the Dodgers had stood alone atop the division since July 13.
Kershaw (11-6) recorded his fourth consecutive win after giving up three runs — including Andrew McCutchen's home run, his 24th of the season — and six hits in eight innings.
"It was a good night," said Kershaw, who struck out eight. "Any time you get that many runs you just try to make them beat you. You pound the [strike] zone and let the defense work."
The Dodgers' 15 hits matched their season high for a game first set April 23 against the Atlanta Braves. It was the fourth time in the last five games that the Dodgers had 11 hits or more.
Even so, Manager Don Mattingly took a cautious stance.
"Hitting is one of those things that gets contagious when things are going good," but 14-game winner A.J. Burnett is starting in the series finale Thursday for the Pirates and "he can shut you down any day, any time," Mattingly said.
Holding a 2-1 lead, the Dodgers scored three runs in the fourth inning against starter Wandy Rodriguez (7-12) when Kemp doubled down the right-field line to drive in Kershaw and Shane Victorino, and Hanley Ramirez doubled to drive in Kemp.
The Dodgers scored four times in the seventh inning against Chris Resop. Ramirez, Andre Ethier and pinch-hitter James Loney had consecutive singles, Luis Cruz hit a ground-rule double, and A.J. Ellis and Kershaw followed with run-scoring sacrifice flies.
Victorino had three hits, extending his hitting streak to nine games. ... Struggling reliever Brandon League tossed a scoreless ninth inning. ... Pirates second baseman Neil Walker dislocated a finger on his right hand trying to turn a double play in the first inning.