SAN DIEGO -- If what happened Wednesday at Petco Park had taken place a week or two earlier, the Dodgers might have been talking about how their 8-2 victory over the San Diego Padres could be the start of something.
Matt Kemp homered and doubled to center field in the cavernous ballpark, displaying the kind of power he showed in April before his season was derailed by injuries. Adrian Gonzalez drove in a pair of runs. Hanley Ramirez pushed in another. Juan Rivera hit his first home run in more than a month.
But the calendar forced the Dodgers to temper their enthusiasm over this rare offensive demonstration.
They have only seven games remaining and still trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 31/2 games for the second of two wild-card spots.
"It just feels late," Manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a win and we're alive."
The magic number for elimination is four.
"Right now, we have to win out to at least give us a chance to even make the playoffs," said Kemp, who added two singles and drove in four runs. "We have to play our game and see where we are at the end."
If there was a reason for optimism, it was this: The Cardinals have no more games against the Houston Astros, who have the worst record in baseball.
The Cardinals' loss to the Astros on Wednesday marked the end of a nine-game stretch that included six games against the Astros and three against the Chicago Cubs, who have the second-worst record in baseball. The Cardinals went 7-2 in those games.
The Cardinals will close their season with three-game sets against the two best teams in the league: the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds.
The Dodgers have one more game against the Padres, after which they will return to Dodger Stadium to face the last-place Colorado Rockies and NL West champion San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers broke out of their offensive slumber on a day when they sat Andre Ethier, Shane Victorino, Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis.
Ethier was a .143 hitter in 28 career at-bats against Padres starter Clayton Richard. Mark Ellis was sidelined because of illness and Victorino a sore wrist. A.J. Ellis, who has started 125 games at catcher, was due for a day off.
But the Dodgers' middle-of-the-order batters outside of Ethier had hit Richard well in the past.
Kemp was 10 for 29 against him with two home runs. Ramirez was seven for eight and Gonzalez five for six.
All three players singled off Richard in the Dodgers' two-run first inning, as did Nick Punto.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 3-0 on Gonzalez's second run-scoring single.
Rivera, who made only his fifth start of the month, took Richard deep in the fourth inning. Later that inning, Kemp doubled in two runs to knock the left-hander out of the game and the Dodgers led, 6-0.
Kemp's two-run home run came in the seventh inning off reliever Anthony Bass. The home run was the 20th of Kemp's injury-plagued season.
"I kind of felt good today," Kemp said. "I found a little something in my swing. I'm pretty good when I get good pitches to hit and have good at-bats. If I do that, I have a chance to do something for my team."
Playing with a bruised left shoulder, Kemp said he has learned something about himself over the last month.
"I keep fighting no matter what," he said. "I try to go out there and at least give my team a chance to win games. I'm going to continue to play hard. I love playing baseball. I told myself I wasn't going to sit out any more. I'm a guy who's going to play it out until the end, no matter what."