Diamondbacks 7, Dodgers 2

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ mantra all season has been to keep

pushing, a familiar refrain used by manager Kirk Gibson. They

haven’t let up one bit.

Gerardo Parra tied a career high with four RBIs to back seven

strong innings by Joe Saunders and the Diamondbacks rode a five-run

sixth inning to a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on

Monday night, reducing their magic number to seven for clinching

the NL West title.

Arizona, vying for the fifth division crown in the franchise’s

14-year history, is 17-3 following a season-worst six-game losing

streak. The win put the Diamondbacks 24 games over .500, matching

their season best.

”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.”

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.

”Some of the finer points in the game of baseball we’re

starting to utilize more than we had earlier in the year, and

there’s a lot more communication,” Gibson said. ”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 only runs against the left-hander came on Matt Kemp’s

first-inning homer and an RBI single by rookie Jerry Sands, who had

three hits.

”My goal tonight was to throw strikes and try not to walk

anybody,” said Saunders, who retired 13 in a row at one point. ”I

ended up walking the leadoff guy in the seventh and he scored, so I

wasn’t too happy about that. But I tried to mix speeds up against a

good lineup, and luckily they hit it at our guys and they were

making the plays.”

Saunders, coming off a 5-3 win at Colorado, has won consecutive

starts for the first time since late July. But his 3.83 ERA

indicates that he’s been pitching better than his won-lost record

would otherwise suggest.

”On a personal level, there have been a lot of peaks and

valleys,” Saunders said. ”There was a big valley to start the

year, and I’ve been treading pretty much uphill the whole time,

just to get back to where I can be. I can’t take back my 0-5 start,

but you make up for lost time and do the best you can. So my goal

right now is just to finish strong and keep our lead where it’s at

going into the postseason.”

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 J.J. Putz retired Dee Gordon

on a grounder to get his 39th save in 43 chances.

Ted Lilly (9-14) was charged with three runs, three hits and

three walks in 5 1-3 innings. He did not allow a hit until Ryan

Roberts lined a 3-2 pitch over the head of third baseman Aaron

Miles with one out in the fifth.

”He threw the ball well, but nothing seemed to work out

tonight,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ”It’s

frustrating.”

The Diamondbacks finally broke through in the sixth, grabbing a

5-1 lead and chasing Lilly. Willie Bloomquist led off 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.

That was all for the left-hander, who departed after 101 pitches

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 with the bases

loaded after a walk to Chris Young.

Parra greeted Scott Elbert with a two-run single inside third

base, capping the rally. He added a two-run double in the eighth

against Mike MacDougal.

The Dodgers, beginning their final homestand of the season, took

the lead with 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.”

NOTES: 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. … Miguel

Montero was 0 for 3, ending his 18-game hitting streak. … The

Diamondbacks posted their major league-leading 43rd comeback

victory. … NL Cy Young Award contender Ian Kennedy will oppose

Chad Billingsley on Tuesday night, attempting to join Randy

Johnson, Curt Schilling and Brandon Webb as the only 20-game

winners in Diamondbacks history.