Posted September 16, 2013 on AP on Fox
Recent struggles and a slew of injuries have kept the Los Angeles Dodgers from moving closer to an NL West title. A series with the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks could get them there in a hurry. With at least one key starter potentially back, the Dodgers attempt to avoid a fourth straight loss and take another step toward a division crown Monday night in the opener of this four-game set at Chase Field. Los Angeles (86-63) holds a commanding 10 1/2-game lead on Arizona (75-73) in the West with a magic number of four. While winning the division for the first time since 2009 seems to be a mere formality, the Dodgers have dropped three in a row and eight of 11 following Sunday's 4-3 defeat to San Francisco. They started that rough stretch with a four consecutive losses before taking two of three at home versus the Diamondbacks last week. "We're definitely looking for the clincher," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who had a three-run double Sunday. "We wish we would have been able to do it here at home, but getting it is the most important thing and getting our guys healthy." The Dodgers are dealing with injuries to outfielders Matt Kemp (ankle), Yasiel Puig (hip), Andre Ethier (ankle) and Carl Crawford (back) and shortstop Hanley Ramirez (back), but their ample division lead affords them the luxury to rest those players. "I'm pretty confident that these guys are getting healthy and we'll be able to get everybody back in there," manager Don Mattingly told the team's official website. Kemp could be back for the first time since July 21, when he returned from a shoulder injury only to hurt his ankle. "We want him to be healthy," Mattingly said. "It's a possibility if everything would go perfect." Having Kemp in the lineup against Arizona would be a boost since he's batting .307 with eight homers and 26 RBIs over his last 29 meetings. Los Angeles has won six of eight against the Diamondbacks, sweeping the most recent three-game set in Phoenix from July 8-10. Hyun-Jin Ryu (13-6, 3.07 ERA), however, hasn't been very effective against the division rival, going 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in four starts. The left-hander was charged with a 4-1 defeat in the finale of the latest series Wednesday, giving up three runs and 10 hits in six innings. He's lost three of his last four starts with a 4.01 ERA after going 6-0 with a 2.84 ERA over his nine previous outings. Continued struggles could put his status for the postseason rotation in question. "I feel no pressure whatsoever," Ryu said. "I'm just trying my best and letting the pieces fall where they may. We're just trying to win as a team." Beating Trevor Cahill (6-10, 4.22) has proven difficult for Los Angeles, and it was again Tuesday. Cahill allowed one earned run over six innings in Arizona's 11-inning loss. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers, going 1-0 with a 1.33 ERA in three this year. Paul Goldschmidt, the NL leader with a career-high 114 RBIs, also thrives against Los Angeles. The All-Star first baseman has a .379 average with four homers and 16 RBIs in 15 season meetings and is 6 for 11 with two doubles off Ryu. Goldschmidt matched career highs with four hits - including his 32nd homer - and five RBIs in Sunday's 8-2 win over Colorado. He's 12 for 21 with seven RBIs in his past five games.
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