All-bullpen game plan sends LA home happy

Kemp's four-RBI day helps Dodgers trim magic number to 3

All-bullpen game plan sends LA home happy

CHICAGO -- Having already deployed four defenders on the same side of the infield this year, the Dodgers went out of the box again Sunday, piecing the work of six relievers from start to finish to fend off the Cubs, 8-5.

The Dodgers went all-bullpen because Hyun-Jin Ryu's shoulder isn't ready and manager Don Mattingly wanted to save Dan Haren for the Monday night opener of a three-game series that offers the dual pleasures of potentially clinching the division (magic number is three) and eliminating the Giants at the same time.

"It just worked out, but the biggest thing was putting runs on the board," said manager Don Mattingly, not willing to say the Dodgers stole a game with the unconventional pitching approach.

Matt Kemp homered with four hits and four RBIs and Yasiel Puig scored four runs in the Bullpen Day win as the Dodgers finished the away schedule with the best road record (49-32) in baseball after a taxing 6-4 trip.

Kemp said he won't be satisfied with a second consecutive division title.

"I want to win out," he said. "I want to have the best record in the National League. That would say something about our team. The home-field advantage is important."

The Dodgers' offense enjoyed the trip through three hitters' parks, averaging 7.5 runs a game. Kemp leads the league in slugging percentage since the All-Star break, Adrian Gonzalez added an RBI to his league-leading total (112) and extended his hitting streak to nine games, Hanley Ramirez is hitting .488 over the last dozen games, and Puig has come alive again. Ramirez, Juan Uribe and Scott Van Slyke also drove in runs.

"A lot of guys have been stepping up," said Mattingly, joking that canceling batting practice this weekend hasn't hurt. "Getting into the last month, our guys know where we're at and what's at stake."

Jamey Wright, making his 248th Major League start but only the second since 2007, allowed one run in two innings to start the bullpen parade. He struck out three but one of two walks turned into the Cubs' first run and helped up his pitch count to 46.

Wright left with a 4-1 lead and Carlos Frias took the baton. He struck out five, but both walks contributed to three runs in three innings.

"Frias' third inning [the fifth, which started with a pair of walks] was scary," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "But he bounced back, didn't give up the lead and we stuck with the plan. We wanted to get through the fifth inning with a lead and then match up. Frias closing out the fifth inning was huge. Thank goodness this time of year we have extra arms. We got the ball to Kenley [Jansen] with a three-run lead, and that's what we were shooting for."

Frias handed off a two-run lead to Chris Perez, who retired all four batters he faced to get the win (scorer's discretion), and Paco Rodriguez followed by retiring the two batters he faced.

"The turning point in the game was the six consecutive outs by Chris and Paco," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "Those two guys have up their ups and downs with health and performance this year, but they've bounced back and stopped their momentum."

Pedro Baez, setup man du jour, allowed a leadoff home run in the eighth to Welington Castillo but held the game there, and Jansen pitched into and out of a ninth-inning jam for his 43rd save.

"I just challenged myself in that situation not to let them score," said Jansen, aided mightily by a defensive gem from Uribe on Anthony Rizzo's one-out grounder that was tougher than it looked.

"Even as young as we are, I thought we held our own," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "Don't think they weren't a little worried in the ninth when we got going. They're trying to clinch a division, and we're trying to show everybody who we are."

Of course, there were the daily Puig theatrics. In the first inning, he ran through a stop sign to score. In the fifth inning, immediately after appearing to turn his right ankle on an aborted slide stealing second base, he dashed around third without hesitation and scored standing up on a Kemp single. He also had two hits and reached base on an error and passed-ball strikeout.

Wright was still beating himself up for allowing a second-inning single to opposing pitcher Jacob Turner, which ran his pitch count high enough to keep him from a third inning.

"I got strike two on the pitcher with a four-seamer, which I hadn't thrown in five years, and I got that old feeling that I could throw it by him again for a punchout and he slapped it into right field," said Wright. "That's what I get for getting greedy."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.