The Cincinnati Reds became the first team to secure a playoff spot and a division title seems inevitable.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ' chance of winning their division is bleak and they're running out of time in the wild-card race.
The Reds, who will continue to play without manager Dusty Baker , could have a shot at clinching the NL Central in Friday night's series opener with the scuffling Dodgers.
By sweeping a three-game series from the Chicago Cubs with Friday's 5-3 win, Cincinnati (91-59) ensured itself of at least a wild-card berth. The Central crown could be wrapped up as early as Friday, if second-place St. Louis, which is 11 games back, loses to the Cubs in the afternoon and the Reds beat the Dodgers.
"There's a lot of work left," reliever Sean Marshall told the Reds' official website. "We've got a lot of games to win if we want to win the World Series."
Cincinnati won its last two games without Baker, who was hospitalized in Chicago with an irregular heartbeat. He was expected to leave the hospital and return to Cincinnati but won't be at the ballpark for this game as bench coach Chris Speier continues to fill in.
" Chris Speier did an excellent job, but I think (Baker is) missed, and we're looking forward to having him back, and more importantly, we're hoping for the best with his health," first baseman Joey Votto said.
While Baker remains away from the team, Votto will be back in the starting lineup after most of the regulars rested Friday. Votto is batting .391 during a seven-game hitting streak, and is batting .348 with six homers and 22 RBIs in his last 17 games against the Dodgers, whose postseason chances appear to be fading.
Los Angeles (77-73) was one-half game out of a playoff spot Sept. 3, but has lost 10 of 14 since and is now three back of the Cardinals for the NL's second wild card with 12 to play. Winning the NL West is just about out of the question, seeing as it's dropped 10 games behind first-place San Francisco."We're going the wrong direction," Don Mattingly said. "For us at this point, we're going to have to put a run together that's going to be more than just win a series."
A sluggish offense has been one of the biggest reasons for Los Angeles' recent struggles. It managed four hits in Thursday's 4-1 loss, and has totaled seven runs in its last seven defeats.
Matt Kemp has been responsible for some of this mess, batting .148 with three RBIs and 17 strikeouts in his last 13 games, dropping his average 28 points to .303.
Kemp has given scheduled starter Bronson Arroyo problems, batting .409 with two homers in 22 career at-bats, but that hasn't led to many victories for Los Angeles. Arroyo (12-8, 3.74 ERA), who has yet to face the Dodgers this season, has a 2.60 ERA in winning his last four starts in the series.
Against Miami on Friday, the right-hander allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 4-0 loss. It was the first time he gave up more than three runs since Aug. 6, having gone 5-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous six starts.
The Dodgers counter with Joe Blanton (9-13, 4.97), who allowed three runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings in Saturday's 4-3 comeback win over St. Louis. The righty is 1-3 with a 6.43 ERA in his last six starts, going less than six innings four times.
Blanton, who is making his first appearance in the season series, is 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||9||.556||5||1||2||1||0||.600||1.822||1.222|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||6||.167||1||0||0||0||0||.286||.453||.167|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|September 15, 2012||Clayton Kershaw||Day-to-Day||Torn labrum, right hip|
|September 09, 2012||Clayton Kershaw||Day-to-Day||Sore hip|
|September 08, 2012||Adam Kennedy||60-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|September 08, 2012||Matt Kemp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder strain|
|September 08, 2012||Adam Kennedy||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|September 03, 2012||Javy Guerra||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|September 19, 2012||Aroldis Chapman||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder fatigue|
|September 19, 2012||Ryan Ludwick||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin tightness|
|September 08, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Strained left oblique|
|August 31, 2012||Kristopher Negron||15-Day DL||Torn right ACL - out for season|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Down to his final strike, Matt Kemp gave the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers a little hope.
Kemp's two-out single with the bases loaded in the 10th inning sent the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory Friday night that improved their wild-card chances and blocked the Cincinnati Reds ' first attempt to clinch the NL Central.
The Dodgers won for only the fifth time in 15 games and moved two games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card. They also trail Milwaukee by a half-game in the wild-card race.
"We're all really happy right now," said Kemp, who had three of the Dodgers' seven hits. "But there's definitely a long way to go."
Manager Don Mattingly treated it like an elimination game, knowing the next one will be just like it. With only 11 left, Los Angeles needs a hot streak now.
"The window closes," Mattingly said before the game. "You've got less games. That's where everybody knows we're at. We're going to have to rattle off some games."
Cincinnati was trying to lock up its second division title in three years without manager Dusty Baker , still in a Chicago hospital. The 63-year-old Baker was hospitalized on Wednesday with an irregular heartbeat.
The Reds will get two more chances to clinch on Saturday. The Cardinals play in Chicago at 1:05 p.m. EDT, where a loss would give the title to the Reds at about the time their 4 p.m. game against the Dodgers is starting. It's unclear whether Baker will be able to attend.
"Of course, everyone in here and in the organization wants him to partake in this, but the reality is he's got to stay focused on getting healthy," bench coach Chris Speier said. "This is going to happen. It would be nice if he was here, but for me, the sooner the better."
Just like in 2010, when they clinched on Jay Bruce 's leadoff homer in the ninth inning off Houston's Tim Byrdak for a 3-2 victory, the Reds had a chance at another last-swing celebration. This time, Bruce struck out swinging to open the ninth.
"I thought about it before the at-bat, too," Bruce said. "It was a pretty big moment in my career. I didn't forget about it. I felt like it was a playoff atmosphere, a must-win for them. They played us tough."
Finally, the Dodgers' slumping offense came through.
Los Angeles loaded the bases in the 10th off Sam LeCure (3-3), who hit Elian Herrera to open the inning. First baseman Joey Votto tried for a forceout on A.J. Ellis' sacrifice, but skipped his throw and both runners were safe. After Nick Punto 's bunt, Mark Ellis walked to load the bases.
Sean Marshall fanned Andre Ethier and got ahead 0-2 in the count to Kemp, who singled to right to drive in a pair of runs.
The Dodgers have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last 10 games, the main culprit in a losing streak that has left them trailing in the wild-card standings.
"We got that key hit that we needed," Kemp said. "We haven't been doing too well getting hits with men on base. We finally got the job done."
Ronald Belisario (8-1) pitched two perfect innings, fanning five. Brandon League worked the 10th for his fourth save in four opportunities.
Cincinnati got its first opportunity to win the NL Central after the Cubs rallied to beat the Cardinals 5-4 in 11 innings earlier Friday at Wrigley Field. That game was shown on the videoboard during batting practice and drew cheers from early arriving fans.
For Cincinnati, it was time to start preparing for a party that's on hold for at least one more day.
Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo gave up six hits in eight innings, including a run that scored on Juan Rivera 's groundout in the second. Arroyo tied it with an RBI single in the fifth off Joe Blanton , who allowed only four hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Blanton didn't sense any extra importance to the night, even though the Reds were ready to celebrate and the Dodgers were desperate for a win.
"It just felt like another game," Blanton said. "Maybe because I've been in so many, it feels like just another one."
The crowd of 35,397 kept waiting for that one finishing hit that never came.
NOTES: The Dodgers are 8-7 in extra innings, the Reds 7-7. ... A.J. Ellis is hitless in his last 26 at-bats. ... Dodgers LHP Ted Lilly had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. He's expected to start throwing again in six to eight weeks. ... Reds LF Ryan Ludwick was out of the lineup for a second straight game with a sore groin. ... Reds SS Zack Cozart was back after missing 14 games with strained muscles in his left side.
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