CINCINNATI (AP) — Getting swept by the Cincinnati Reds isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when you still have a double-digit lead in your division.
That was Clayton Kershaw’s opinion after Ryan Hanigan’s RBI double in the ninth inning drove in Zack Cozart from first base to lift the Reds to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.
The loss was the Dodgers’ fourth straight, their longest losing streak since a season-high eight-game skid May 1-10.
“They’re a good team,” said Kershaw, who gave up two solo home runs to Jay Bruce. “Obviously, you’d like things to go differently. We had some missed opportunities. Overall, this might be a good time to lose some games, if we’re going to lose some, so we can remember what that feels like and see if we can bounce back.”
Manager Don Mattingly also found bright spots in the series, which included walkoff losses Saturday and Sunday.
“Obviously, every game was close,” said Mattingly, whose team still leads Arizona by 11 games in the NL West. “I was happier with our game tonight than I was the first two. I wasn’t that excited about our focus. Tonight was better for me. Our focus was better. We know we have a good club. September games are tough to win. You never know when you get a key out or a key hit. We’ve been playing pressure packed games all along.”
Cozart, who had extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games earlier, started the rally with a one-out single to left off Ronald Belisario (5-7). Hanigan lined the next pitch past left fielder Carl Crawford to the wall, and Cozart beat shortstop Hanley Ramirez’s relay throw with a headfirst slide.
“Belisario is tough,” Hanigan said. “He tries to get guys out with that sinker. I was looking for it. It’s one of those games. Kind of went the way we expected. A lot of quality pitching, low scoring, but it was an awesome way to win.”
Aroldis Chapman (4-5) pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to get the win, which completed the Reds’ first sweep of a three-game series against the Dodgers in Cincinnati since June 12-14, 1992.
The Reds went into the game in third place in the NL Central, two games behind first-place St. Louis, which beat second-place Pittsburgh earlier Sunday.
Bruce gave the Reds a 1-0 lead with one out in the second with his 28th homer of the season and the first by a left-handed batter off Kershaw since June 15, 2012. Bruce’s 374-foot fly ball into the netting above the visitors’ bullpen down the right field line was the first homer allowed by Kershaw in 58 innings.
Homer Bailey retired the first 11 Los Angeles batters he faced, seven on strikeouts, including six straight before Adrian Gonzalez singled and scored from first on Ramirez’s double off the left-center field wall.
Bruce responded by clubbing his second homer in two at bats, a 382-foot blast into the right field seats leading off the fourth. Both shots were on 1-0 pitches. The multi-homer game was his second of the season and 14th of his career.
Ramirez came up with his second game-tying hit of the game, leading off the seventh with his 17th home run of the season and second of the series, a 399-foot drive into the left field seats on a 1-1 pitch.
Bailey lasted seven innings, allowing two runs and six hits with nine strikeouts. He also hit a batter.
Bruce’s two solo homers were the only runs allowed by Kershaw, who gave up four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. He hit two batters and was charged with a balk. He bounced back from a rough two-game stretch in which he allowed 18 hits and six earned runs in 10 2-3 innings, including five runs and a career-high 11 hits in his most recent start against Colorado.
“I felt a lot better today,” Kershaw said. “I had that one inning. You can’t walk the opposing pitcher and you can’t give up two-strike hits. That was a little frustrating. I was fortunate to get out of it. That was the only inning I felt I struggled. Give Jay Bruce credit. I was stubborn on the second one. I thought he ran into one the first time. He proved that he’s really locked in.”
NOTES: OF Matt Kemp could return to the Dodgers in “about 10 days,” manager Don Mattingly said before Sunday’s game, quoting team medical director Stan Conte. Mattingly wasn’t sure if Conte meant 10 days from Thursday, when Kemp suffered a mile hamstring strain, or 10 days from Sunday. Kemp, on the disabled list since July 22 after spraining his left ankle, is on a rehab assignment with the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers. … LHP Hyun-Jim Ryu’s ability to start on Wednesday will depend on how he feels Monday after throwing in the bullpen on Sunday, Mattingly said. Ryu was scratched from Friday’s start with back problems.