SAN DIEGO -- This is incredible, isn't it?
As awful as the Dodgers have looked over the last few weeks, they will head into their final homestand of the season with a chance to reach the playoffs -- a remote chance, but a chance nonetheless.
"We're still breathing," catcher A.J. Ellis said.
Their 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Thursday night moved them to within three games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second of two National League wild-card spots.
The Dodgers and Cardinals both have six games remaining.
"We have to win every day," Manager Don Mattingly said. "Win six."
Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers on Friday in the opening game of a three-game series against the last-place Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers will conclude with a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals will be closing their season against the NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds. While the animosity between the Dodgers and Giants is fan- and media-driven, the hatred between the Cardinals and Reds is said to be very real. A 2010 brawl involving the two teams resulted in a career-ending concussion for Cardinals backup catcher Rusty LaRue.
Something else: Before the Cardinals face the Reds, they have to play the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. The Reds and Nationals might already have clinched postseason spots, but they are competing for the top seeding in the NL.
"We could win out and we still have to have other people helping us out to get in at this point," pitcher Chris Capuano said. "I think we don't really have anything to lose at this point. It's about finishing the season with pride."
The Dodgers won the last two games of their three-game series in San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez's homecoming, which started with a crushing 2-1 defeat on Tuesday, turned into something memorable.
Gonzalez was two for four with a walk Thursday. He scored two runs and drove in another.
Back in the city in which he was born and raised, Gonzalez resembled the player the Dodgers thought they acquired in a nine-player trade with the Boston Red Sox last month.
Gonzalez is eight for 17 with two home runs and five runs batted in over his last four games, dating back to the Dodgers' win Sunday in Cincinnati.
The four-time All-Star scored the Dodgers' first run Thursday, as he singled to right to lead off the fourth inning, advanced to second on a single by Luis Cruz and scored on a hit by A.J. Ellis for a 1-0 lead.
That lead grew to 5-0 in the fifth inning.
Matt Kemp started the four-run push with a double to center. With two outs and first base open, Padres starter Casey Kelly intentionally walked Gonzalez.
Kelley hit Hanley Ramirez above the left elbow to load the bases, then drilled Shane Victorino on the foot to push in the first run of the inning.
Kelly was replaced by Nick Vincent, who promptly gave up a two-run single to Cruz. That was followed by another single from Ellis, who drove in Victorino.
Capuano (12-11) survived an early scare to win his first game since Aug. 12. He was 0-3 over his last seven starts.
Capuano's critical moment came in the second inning, when he walked Andy Parrino to load the bases with one out. Kelly hit a ball hard past Capuano but second baseman Nick Punto made a diving stop. Punto tossed the ball directly out of his glove to shortstop Ramirez, who turned an inning-ending double play.
Capuano had men on first and second with one out in the fifth inning, but again forced an inning-ending double play, this one by Cameron Maybin.
Capuano pitched 51/3 innings and was charged with one run and four hits. That run was scored in the sixth inning, after Capuano allowed the first two batters to reach base and was pulled.