Kemp hits 33rd HR in Dodgers loss to D-Backs

The third time through the lineup was the charm for the Arizona
Diamondbacks against Ted Lilly, who took a no-hitter into the fifth
inning before he chased during a five-run sixth by the NL West
leaders.

Rookie manager Don Mattingly lifted Lilly after 101 pitches with
the score tied at 1, but the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen faltered
miserably.

Gerardo Parra tied a career best with four RBIs, and
Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz had to quell a bases-loaded threat in
the ninth to preserve a 7-2 victory for Joe Saunders.

”You make a decision to try and get something done, and it
doesn’t work out,” Mattingly said. ”It was one where you question
yourself and thing maybe you should have given Lilly another
hitter.”

The Diamondbacks, who didn’t get their first hit until Ryan
Roberts’ one-out single in the fifth, grabbed a 5-1 lead after
Willie Bloomquist led off the sixth with a bloop single and came
all the way around on Aaron Hill’s double into the left-field
corner. After an intentional walk to Justin Upton, Hill got a huge
jump on Lilly and stole third without a throw.

That was all for the left-hander, who departed with a 1-1 count
on Paul Goldschmidt. The rookie lined Matt Guerrier’s first pitch
to left for an RBI single, and Roberts chased Guerrier with another
run-scoring single after a walk to Chris Young loaded the bases.
Parra greeted Scott Elbert with a two-run single inside third base
to cap the rally.

Lilly (9-14) was charged with three runs, three hits and three
walks in 5 1-3 innings.

”Lilly was good. The ball was moving as good as I’ve seen it
move from him, so it was good to get him out of the game,” Arizona
manager Kirk Gibson said with a chuckle. ”I guess Upton getting to
third forced Don Mattingly to take Lilly out.”

The Dodgers, beginning their final homestand of the season, took
the lead with Matt Kemp’s two-out homer. It was his 33rd of the
season and it increased his RBI total to 108 – the most by a Dodger
in both categories since 2004, when Adrian Beltre had 48 homers and
121 RBIs.

”He’s a good hitter, so what are you going to do? I tried to
make some pitches against him and they missed, so I had to come
over the plate,” Saunders said. ”It was a good pitch, I thought,
but he’s a strong guy and he’s got good pop the opposite way. But
it only counts as one.”

Arizona reduced its magic number to seven for clinching the NL
West title. The Diamondbacks, trying for the fifth division crown
in the franchise’s 14-year history, are 17-3 following a
season-worst six-game losing streak. The win put them 24 games over
.500, matching their season best.

The Diamondbacks’ fortunes have changed dramatically since July
29, when they came to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series and
acquired starter Jason Marquis and reliever Brad Ziegler on
consecutive days in trades with Washington and Oakland before
leaving Los Angeles. Since then, they have gone 28-14 to turn a
four-game deficit into an 8 1/2 game lead over San Francisco.

”It’s been a good run, but we’ve got to keep pushing because
nothing’s guaranteed,” Gibson said. ”You grow as a team, and
certain things help you grow. K.T. (general manager Kevin Towers)
has done a great job of fine-tuning what we thought some of our
weaknesses were. We had our advance meeting today and some of the
veteran guys spoke up about some things that we’re looking for that
are going to help us in the future.”

Saunders (11-12) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked
one. The Dodgers’ other run against the left-hander came in the
seventh on an RBI single by rookie Jerry Sands, who had three
hits.

The Dodgers loaded the bases in the ninth, when Alberto Castillo
hit pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. with a 2-2 pitch after Bryan Shaw
gave up a pair of two-out singles. But Putz retired Dee Gordon on a
grounder to get his 39th save in 43 chances.

Los Angeles, a season-worst 14 games under .500 after a July 6
loss to the Mets, has to go no worse than 9-5 the rest of the way
to finish with a winning record after going 80-82 last season. The
Dodgers have had consecutive losing seasons only twice since
leaving Brooklyn. The last time was 1986-87, when they had
identical 73-89 records. It also happened in 1967-68.

The Diamondbacks lead the season series 8-5 with five games
remaining, including a three-game set in Phoenix that concludes the
regular season.

NOTES: The Dodgers held their annual ”Heroes Night” pregame
ceremony, honoring representatives of the armed forces and local
police and fire departments. One of them was the late Andrew
Garton, a Hawthorne motorcycle officer whose cousin was St. Louis
Cardinals C Gerald Laird. Garton, 44, was killed in a traffic
accident on May 26 while escorting a funeral procession for
Manhattan Beach officer and cancer victim Mark Vasquez. … Parra
also had four RBIs on July 26, 2009, against Pittsburgh. …
Saunders’ most troublesome inning this season has been the first,
having given up 19 runs and seven homers. The same is true over his
career – 117 runs and 25 homers. … Montero was 0 for 3, ending
his 18-game hitting streak. … The Diamondbacks posted their major
league-leading 43rd comeback victory. … Any combination of
Diamondbacks wins and Dodgers losses totaling three would eliminate
Los Angeles from the NL West race. Any combination of five losses
and Atlanta Braves wins will put the Dodgers out of the wild-card
hunt.