For the second time in three nights, Matt Kemp provided the game-winning hit, delivering a two-run single in the 10th inning to give the Dodgers a 3-1 win over the Reds on Friday night at Great American Ball Park.
The win pulled the Dodgers back to within two games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second wild card spot in the National League, with 11 games remaining.
The Dodgers pulled off a rally likely only they can of late in the 10th inning. Elian Herrera, who entered the game as a pinch runner earlier in the game, reached base via hit-by-pitch even though the pitch from Sam LeCure appeared not to touch Herrera. A.J. Ellis, mired in an 0-for-26 slump, laid down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes, and first baseman Joey Votto tried unsuccessfully to nail Herrera at second base, putting two runners on with nobody out.
Pinch hitter Nick Punto sacrificed both runners over, then Mark Ellis walked to load the bases. Left-hander Sean Marshall was brought in to neutralize Andre Ethier, which he did, then was left in to face Kemp.
Kemp entered the game hitting .380.451/.704 with 10 home runs against left-handed pitchers this season but with his recent injuries hasn't done much against either side. In September Kemp was hitting .227/.320/.364 (5-for-22) against lefties, before singling home two runs.
The Dodgers got things started in the second when Hanley Ramirez grounded a ball that shortstop Zack Cozart booted, a clear error that was somehow called a base hit. Ramirez then stole second, advanced to third on a single by Luis Cruz, then scored on a groundout by Juan Rivera for a 1-0 lead.
Rivera started in left field in place of Shane Victorino, who was held out of the lineup with a stiff right wrist, suffered Thursday night in Washington D.C. against the Nationals.
Joe Blanton retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, including 12 straight until two outs in the fifth inning, when old friend Xavier Paul hit a ball to the warning track in left center field that bounced into the seats for a ground rule double. Manager Don Mattingly opted to intentionally walk eighth place hitter Ryan Hanigan to get to pitcher Bronson Arroyo, but the move backfired when Arroyo singled to left field to bring home Paul to tie the game at 1-1.
Both teams rallied in the sixth to no avail, with the Dodgers stranding two runners when Adrian Gonzalez popped out to first base in the top of the inning, and Xavier Paul struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the frame.
Blanton allowed just the one run in his 5 2/3 innings, with six strikeouts and one intentional walk.
Arroyo was even better, needing just 88 pitches to get through eight innings, having allowed just one run. Arroyo struck out four and walked none.
But the pitching performance of the night was by Ronald Belisario, who pitched two scoreless innings and struck out five consecutive hitters, earning his eighth win of the year.
Stephen Fife gets the call for the Dodgers on Saturday in the middle game of the series, facing Mat Latos for Cincinnati.
Home Runs: none
WP - Ronald Belisario (8-1): 2 IP, 5 strikeouts
LP - Sam LeCure (3-3): 1/3 IP, 2 runs, 1 walk
Sv - Brandon League (13): 1 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout