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Matt Kemp gets the big hit in 10th

Dodgers defeat Reds, 3-1, and gain ground in wild-card race while denying Cincinnati a division-clinching victory.

September 22, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

CINCINNATI — Matt Kemp did Friday what he said he would do when he invited his teammates to jump on his back earlier this week.

Kemp was a late-inning star for the second time in three days, driving in two runs on a 10th-inning single that lifted the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Kemp's winning home run in Washington on Wednesday was met with more relief than jubilation, as it allowed the Dodgers to avoid losing both games of a doubleheader. His hit off Reds reliever Sean Marshall on Friday appeared to generate more excitement in the clubhouse, as it restored the team's belief that reaching the postseason was possible.

With the St. Louis Cardinals falling to the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers moved to within two games of the second of two National League wild-card spots.

"We're going to make it," reliever Ronald Belisario said. "We're going to do it."

Manager Don Mattingly, who was dejected in the wake of the Dodgers' loss in Washington the previous night, was smiling again.

"Today's kind of a double little shot because you know that you're picking up a game," Mattingly said. "The win isn't just a win. It's a win that you know you're picking up a game."

Still, the odds remain against the Dodgers.

They have only 11 games left and have to pass not one, but two, teams. The Milwaukee Brewers are a half-game ahead of them.

"We're really happy right now, but we definitely have a long ways to go," Kemp said. "St. Louis ain't going to stop playing. Milwaukee's right there. They're not going to stop playing too. We can't lose any more games. We have win every game."

But what, other than the Dodgers' perception, has changed? For the first nine innings, they appeared to be the same team that continually lost ground in the standings over the last month.

The Dodgers' bullpen set the stage for Kemp's go-ahead single.

Shawn Tolleson entered the game in the sixth inning with two on and two outs. He walked the bases loaded, but struck out former Dodgers prospect Xavier Paul to hold a 1-1 stalemate.

Kenley Jansen, who recently returned from his latest heart-related scare, pitched a perfect seventh inning.

Then came Belisario. The Venezuelan pitched two perfect innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced.

Belisario has been one of the season's pleasant surprises. He didn't throw a single pitch in the major leagues last season, as a positive cocaine test prevented him from gaining entry into the United States. His season earned-run average is now 2.20.

"I think we just didn't know what to count on," Mattingly said. "It was hard to expect anything."

The 10th inning started with September call-up Elian Herrera being grazed by a Sean LeCure pitch. A.J. Ellis followed with a sacrifice bunt, which was retrieved by first baseman Joey Votto. But instead of throwing to first base, Votto threw to second, and Herrera beat his throw.

The left-handed Marshall came in to face Andre Ethier and struck him out. Marshall remained in the game to pitch to Kemp. As was the case when he hit a ninth-inning home run in Washington two days earlier, Kemp fell behind, 0-2.

But Kemp muscled a cut fastball into right field, scoring Herrera and Ellis.

Brandon League walked one in the bottom of the 10th but picked up the save.

The Dodgers were spared from witnessing the opposing team celebrate for the second consecutive day. The Reds were a win away from securing the NL Central title. The day before, the Nationals became the first Washington-based baseball team to secure a playoff berth since 1933.

"I have some friends over there, but I don't want to see them to do that while we're on the field," Kemp said, laughing. "I'm trying to get to the playoffs myself."

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