LOS ANGELES -- Two big swings edged the Los Angeles Dodgers closer to claiming the NL West title and gave them greater control over making the postseason.
Nomar Garciaparra and Blake DeWitt each hit three-run homers and the Dodgers reduced their magic number to three with a 10-1 victory Tuesday night.
Race to the Finish
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"Three is our number," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We want to win the next three games and put this thing to sleep. We're confident, but not comfortable."After a 1-0, 11-inning loss to San Francisco on Sunday, the Dodgers sure looked loose, piling up six runs in the first and eventually scoring at least 10 runs for the 10th time this season."Our challenge is to go out and make it very tough on the Dodgers. Our guys realize what's at stake in our division," Padres manager Bud Black said. "The Dodgers have a lot to play for. We're going to end up playing them nine times in a short period of time, and they know that we're going to come at them the next two nights."Manny Ramirez added a two-run double, making him the second player in major league history to record at least 50 RBIs in each league during the same season.The Dodgers' victory, combined with Arizona's 7-4 loss at St. Louis, drew them closer to their first division title since 2004 and first under new manager Torre. They lead the Diamondbacks by three games with five to play."You always want to get down to where it's in your hands and that's where we are," Garciaparra said. "It would be nice to wrap it up here. Our goal is to try to win somewhere."Los Angeles (82-75) clinched its third consecutive winning season and eighth in the last nine years.Chad Billingsley (16-10) allowed one run and nine hits in six innings, struck out five and walked two for his fourth win in his last five starts.The right-hander also helped himself offensively in his career-high 32nd start, with a suicide squeeze bunt in the first and a single in the third -- his third of the season -- that drove in another run."Coming out and scoring six runs got me to relax, try to work on things and get my rhythm back," Billingsley said. "I felt a lot better out there with my fastball."The Dodgers sent 10 men to the plate in the first against Wade LeBlanc (1-2), who was charged with seven runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. The left-hander walked four and struck out none as the Padres' three-game winning streak ended."I've got to make pitches when I have to to keep this team in the game and I didn't do that," LeBlanc said. "I'm nowhere near as consistent as I need to be, and that's something I'm going to have to take a look at -- what makes somebody a major league pitcher and what makes somebody a minor league pitcher. I need to figure out what I need to do to make myself a major league pitcher and correct that in the off-season."Ramirez's hit drove in the first two runs and gave him 51 RBIs since joining the Dodgers on July 31. Garciaparra hit a 2-0 pitch from LeBlanc into the left field pavilion for three more runs. Casey Blake scored on Billingsley's bunt to make it 6-0."Wade had a tough inning out of the chute. There were a couple of walks in there and he got behind in the count," Black said. "When when you do that, you have to throw strikes and big league hitters will make you pay. That's what happened with Wade. He just couldn't seem to get ahead in the count, the ball was up a little bit, and that got him."Billingsley's RBI single in the third brought home the Dodgers' seventh run.DeWitt connected on a 3-2 pitch from Charlie Haeger in the sixth for his eighth homer, extending the Dodgers' lead to 10-1.San Diego's lone run came on Edgar Gonzalez's two-out RBI single in the second.
Ramirez and Carlos Beltran in 2004 are the only players to record 50 RBIs in each league during the same season. ... Haeger singled to left in his first major league at-bat in the third. ... Torre said right-hander Derek Lowe (14-11) will start Friday at San Francisco, followed by right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (9-10) on Saturday and Billingsley on Sunday, depending on who the Dodgers would start in their playoff opener. ... The Padres are 2-5 at Dodger Stadium this season. ... Billingsley's 16 victories lead the club. ... Dodgers CF Matt Kemp turned 24 Tuesday.