CINCINNATI (AP) — The Dodgers know that their latest win has to be the start of something spectacular.
Adrian Gonzalez hit a pair of solo home runs off Homer Bailey on Sunday night, powering Los Angeles to a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that let the Dodgers keep pace in the wild card race.
They remained three games behind St. Louis and a half-game behind Milwaukee for the final NL playoff spot. All three teams won on Sunday.
The Dodgers have dropped 11 of their last 17 games. They are off Monday before starting a three-game series in San Diego. The Dodgers finish the season with six games at home — three against Colorado, three against NL West-champion San Francisco.
That is nine games to make up a lot of ground.
“Just win, man, that’s all that matters,” Gonzalez said. “We can’t go out there and win a series anymore. We’ve got to go out there and try to sweep. We win nine games, that gives us a legitimate shot at this.”
While the Dodgers felt the pressure of trying to stay in contention, the Reds rested several regulars a day after clinching their second NL Central title in three years. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker briefly visited the players in the clubhouse after his release from a Chicago hospital, where he was treated the last four days for an irregular heartbeat.
“I thought he looked great,” left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. “He was in good spirits. It was great to see his smile, and he got a lot of hugs from us. He was cool, calm and collected. We all want him here, but we know it’s going to take some time.”
The 63-year-old Baker became ill while the team was in Chicago last week. The Reds won the title without him on Saturday night, raising a toast to him in the clubhouse after their 6-0 victory.
Cincinnati is off on Monday and will open a three-game series against Milwaukee on Tuesday, giving Baker a day to rest. The Reds are a half-game behind Washington for the best record in the NL and the top seed in the playoffs.
Bailey (12-10) allowed five hits in 6 2-3 innings, including the two homers by Gonzalez, who has five in his career off the right-hander. His second homer started a four-run seventh inning that also featured Mark Ellis’ RBI double.
“I’ll tell you one thing: If you want to get Adrian Gonzalez hot, have him hit against me,” Bailey said. “I throw balls out of the (strike) zone, and he still hits them out.”
Shawn Tolleson (3-1) got the victory with one perfect inning in relief. Ronald Belisario gave up a two-run homer by Denis Phipps — his first in the majors — in the eighth inning. Brandon League pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five chances with LA.
After the loss on Saturday night, the Dodgers changed their pitching plans for the final game of the series, letting their 2011 Cy Young winner see what he could do. Clayton Kershaw hadn’t pitched since Sept. 11 because of a sore hip and probably wouldn’t have made another start if LA was out of contention. He managed five ragged innings.
“He was just rusty more than anything else,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s Clayton. He’s going to keep fighting and battling. He wanted to stay in the game even then.”
The left-hander faced a Reds lineup missing four regulars who got the day off after they clinched. Ludwick, right fielder Jay Bruce, third baseman Scott Rolen and shortstop Zack Cozart sat out.
Kershaw hit Chris Heisey to open the Reds’ first inning and needed 92 pitches to get through five innings, leaving with the score tied at 1. He fanned Joey Votto with the bases loaded in the fourth to keep it tied at 1.
He was disappointed when Mattingly pinch hit for him leading off the sixth.
“Obviously, I was not pitching that great, but you never want to pitch five innings and call it a day,” Kershaw said. “Physically I felt fine. I wasn’t throwing strikes, but it wasn’t because of the hip.”
NOTES: Mattingly plans to start RHP Josh Beckett as planned on Tuesday, then have RHP Aaron Harang go on Wednesday. … Gonzalez is 8 for 15 with five career homers off Bailey. It was his 14th career multihomer game and his first of the season. … A.J. Ellis snapped an 0-for-30 slump. … SS Hanley Ramirez fouled a ball off his left shin in the seventh inning, singled and left for a pinch runner, limping as he headed for the dugout. … Votto missed 48 games because of two operations for torn cartilage in his left knee. He is batting .314 without a homer in 17 games since his return. … C Ryan Hanigan left with a bruised right shoulder, hit by a pitch that bounced. Precautionary X-rays were negative.