Dodgers 8, Cubs 5: Matt Kemp saves the bullpen game

No starting pitcher, no problem … ish. The Dodgers much-maligned bullpen came through — kinda — in Sunday’s 8-5 victory in Chicago. The Dodgers took three of the four games in the series after a terrible collapse yesterday.

But the real story of this game was Matt Kemp, who went 4-for-5 with a 2-run home run and four RBIs. Kemp continued his really strong second half, which saw him at .299/.361/.575 with 14 home runs before today. With his performance today, his second half slugging percentage went up to .594, best in the majors since the break. He’s firmly entrenched as the team’s No. 4 hitter, and it seems the Dodgers might have the right combination in the batting order right now.

I know I wrote about Gonzalez’s MVP chances a couple weeks ago, but good lord.

Yasiel Puig went 2-for-5 with four runs scored. His two hits got his batting average back to better than .300 for the first time since Aug. 29. He had an awkward slide attempt on a stolen base in the fifth inning. It looked like he decided not to slide after he realized the catcher wasn’t throwing through on Adrian Gonzalez‘s strikeout, and go caught in between. He grabbed his right ankle, was visited by the trainers and stayed in the game. He appears to be OK because he motored around third base to score in on Kemp’s hard single to left field. He’s amazing and starting to make plays in all aspects of the game — and just in time after a month-plus-long slump.

Hanley Ramirez has, quietly, been playing really well of late. He went 2-for-4 with a double. Since his season-low triple-slash of .262/.350/.434, Ramirez has hit .451/.509/.588. Gonzalez continued his strong season by getting the Dodgers on the board in the first inning with an RBI double.

Jamey Wright drew the start for the Dodgers in the bullpen game. The first two guys (Wright and Carlos Frias) weren’t great: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K — but the rest of the bullpen had a nice game, including the “winning” pitcher Chris Perez. Perez, Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen combined to post this line: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. Jansen walked Rafael Lopez to start the ninth and Dodger-killer Chris Coghlan doubled. After that, it was second and third with no outs. Jansen struck out Javier Baez, got Anthony Rizzo to ground out and struck out Luis Valbuena to end the game.

This 10-game road trip ends with a 6-4 record, and it wasn’t typical Dodger baseball. They averaged 7.5 runs per game (great), but allowed 6.2 per game. The only two starting pitchers to throw six or more innings were Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw — both in San Francisco. No pitcher since Monday has thrown more than five innings in a game, including Kershaw. Despite Hyun-jin Ryu‘s injury, this is clearly an aberration.

The Dodgers (89-67) finish an MLB-best 49-32 on the road this season (provided the Orioles don’t win-out this week). The last time the Dodgers were this good on the road was 1974 (50-31) and 1988 (49-31). Both of those teams went to the World Series. It probably doesn’t mean anything, just an interesting note.

They return home (40-35) to play what should be a division-deciding 3-game series with the Giants (84-70, and losing 5-2 in the seventh inning in San Diego at press time). Dan Haren (13-11, 4.11 ERA), who is six innings from his 2015 options vesting, takes on Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.82). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Pacific. The Dodgers’ magic number is 4, and could be 3 in a matter of minutes.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.