LOS ANGELES -- After a nearly three-month chase, the Dodgers caught the Giants on Tuesday night with a 9-3 victory over Philadelphia for a first-place tie and four-game win streak.
"When you look at the standings, there's something to hang your hat on a little bit," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "But the bigger picture is the way we're going about preparing every day. Like I always say, the wins are byproduct of the preparation and the way we're playing the game."
The Dodgers hadn't been tied with San Francisco atop the National League West since May 14. By June 26, the night of Clayton Kershaw's last start, the deficit had swelled to a season-high eight games.
Instead of signaling the end of the race, the loss of Kershaw to a herniated back disk somehow ignited the Dodgers to a 23-13 spurt, while the Giants have staggered to a 15-21 mark over the same stretch. The Dodgers are a season-high 15 games above .500.
"It's a credit to the guys, that it's a long season and to not give the season away in April," Roberts said. "Howie, Yas, all the guys are swinging the bat. We're as good as any lineup in the NL.
They have overcome repeated short starts, like Kenta Maeda's five innings in this game, with an extended offensive surge, again demonstrated with home runs against Philadelphia by Yasmani Grandal (12 in the last 28 games), Justin Turner (10-game hit streak) and Howie Kendrick (three RBIs on his first career Bobblehead Night). That trio had Spring health issues lead to slow offensive starts, but they are on fire now.
"That's just a testament to hard work through the season," said Kendrick. "You know, early on we lost a lot of games early and people were like, 'Oh, they're falling behind too much.' Going down the stretch, it's just about playing really well in the second half and seeing what happens in September. It's always important to win series and keep edging and edging closer and closer. We've been able to do that. Some luck, but a lot of hard work from a lot of guys in this locker room. Especially with pitchers going down, we've had guys step up. Young guys, too."
Relievers especially. Dodgers starting pitchers are leaving innings that the bullpen must pick up. Maeda (11-7) didn't argue that the epidemic of short outings (nine straight outings shorter than six innings) is a distraction creeping into the heads of the starters.
"I'm sure everybody wants to throw longer," Maeda said. "I do consider what happened the day before I pitch."
Nonetheless, Maeda has more than held up his end. The rookie leads the club with 11 wins, 23 starts, 130 2/3 innings and 129 strikeouts. He also hit a ground-rule double in the four-run second inning, a feat he used to explain how much he struggled on the mound.
"That was the only part of the night that I felt good [about]," he said. "I was glad the ball bounced over the fence so I didn't have to run as hard."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.