CINCINNATI — Down to his final strike, Matt Kemp gave the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers a little hope.
Kemp’s two-out single with the bases loaded in the 10th inning sent the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory Friday night that improved their wild-card chances and blocked the Cincinnati Reds’ first attempt to clinch the NL Central.
The Dodgers won for only the fifth time in 15 games and moved two games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card. They also trail Milwaukee by a half-game in the wild-card race.
“We’re all really happy right now,” said Kemp, who had three of the Dodgers’ seven hits. “But there’s definitely a long way to go.”
Manager Don Mattingly treated it like an elimination game, knowing the next one will be just like it. With only 11 left, Los Angeles needs a hot streak now.
“The window closes,” Mattingly said before the game. “You’ve got less games. That’s where everybody knows we’re at. We’re going to have to rattle off some games.”
Cincinnati was trying to lock up its second division title in three years without manager Dusty Baker, still in a Chicago hospital. The 63-year-old Baker was hospitalized on Wednesday with an irregular heartbeat.
The Reds will get two more chances to clinch on Saturday. The Cardinals play in Chicago at 1:05 p.m. EDT, where a loss would give the title to the Reds at about the time their 4 p.m. game against the Dodgers is starting. It’s unclear whether Baker will be able to attend.
“Of course, everyone in here and in the organization wants him to partake in this, but the reality is he’s got to stay focused on getting healthy,” bench coach Chris Speier said. “This is going to happen. It would be nice if he was here, but for me, the sooner the better.”
Just like in 2010, when they clinched on Jay Bruce’s leadoff homer in the ninth inning off Houston’s Tim Byrdak for a 3-2 victory, the Reds had a chance at another last-swing celebration. This time, Bruce struck out swinging to open the ninth.
“I thought about it before the at-bat, too,” Bruce said. “It was a pretty big moment in my career. I didn’t forget about it. I felt like it was a playoff atmosphere, a must-win for them. They played us tough.”
Finally, the Dodgers’ slumping offense came through.
Los Angeles loaded the bases in the 10th off Sam LeCure (3-3), who hit Elian Herrera to open the inning. First baseman Joey Votto tried for a forceout on A.J. Ellis’ sacrifice, but skipped his throw and both runners were safe. After Nick Punto’s bunt, Mark Ellis walked to load the bases.
Sean Marshall fanned Andre Ethier and got ahead 0-2 in the count to Kemp, who singled to right to drive in a pair of runs.
The Dodgers have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last 10 games, the main culprit in a losing streak that has left them trailing in the wild-card standings.
“We got that key hit that we needed,” Kemp said. “We haven’t been doing too well getting hits with men on base. We finally got the job done.”
Ronald Belisario (8-1) pitched two perfect innings, fanning five. Brandon League worked the 10th for his fourth save in four opportunities.
Cincinnati got its first opportunity to win the NL Central after the Cubs rallied to beat the Cardinals 5-4 in 11 innings earlier Friday at Wrigley Field. That game was shown on the videoboard during batting practice and drew cheers from early arriving fans.
For Cincinnati, it was time to start preparing for a party that’s on hold for at least one more day.
Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo gave up six hits in eight innings, including a run that scored on Juan Rivera’s groundout in the second. Arroyo tied it with an RBI single in the fifth off Joe Blanton, who allowed only four hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Blanton didn’t sense any extra importance to the night, even though the Reds were ready to celebrate and the Dodgers were desperate for a win.
“It just felt like another game,” Blanton said. “Maybe because I’ve been in so many, it feels like just another one.”
The crowd of 35,397 kept waiting for that one finishing hit that never came.
PHILLIES 6, BRAVES 3
PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Frandsen hit one of Philadelphia’s four solo homers to back Kyle Kendrick, and the Phillies inched closer in the NL playoff race with a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley also went deep for the resurgent Phillies, who pulled within three games of St. Louis for the league’s second wild-card spot with their fourth straight win. Milwaukee and Los Angeles also stand in Philadelphia’s way with 11 games remaining.
Despite the loss, the Braves are in excellent position to secure a postseason berth. Their magic number for clinching a spot was five, pending the outcome of the Milwaukee-Washington game.
Kendrick (10-11) allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out six. He is 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA since Aug. 14.
BREWERS 4, NATIONALS 2
WASHINGTON — Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez had consecutive RBI hits in the ninth inning off Nationals closer Tyler Clippard and the Brewers extended their season-high winning streak to six games with a win over the Nationals.
The victory combined with a St. Louis loss moved the Brewers within 1 1-2 games of the Cardinals for the final wild card berth in the National League.
Held to one run over eight innings against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, the Brewers scored three against Clippard (2-6). Norichika Aoki led off with bunt single, took second on a passed ball by catcher Jesus Flores and moved to third on Rickie Weeks’ fly ball out.
Braun followed with a single to left, scoring Aoki. He then stole second and came around to score the go-ahead run on Ramirez’s double to left. Ramirez scored on Travis Ishikawa’s infield single.
Jose Veras (5-4) worked one inning in relief and John Axford pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
CUBS 5, CARDINALS 4, 11 innings
CHICAGO — Darwin Barney spoiled Chris Carpenter’s season debut with a two-run, game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning, and David DeJesus hit a game-ending single in the 11th to help the Cubs beat the Cardinals.
DeJesus hit an 0-2 pitch off of Joe Kelly (5-6) to right field to score pinch-runner Brett Jackson.
Alberto Cabrera (1-1) struck out two in a perfect 11th to earn his first career victory.
Carpenter allowed two runs over five innings and was in line for the win before Barney’s late home run.
METS 7, MARLINS 3
NEW YORK — The Mets managed to avoid falling into last place in the NL East, beating the cellar-dwelling Marlins behind a big game by Scott Hairston.
New York, which also got a solo homer from Ike Davis, had lost nine straight at home since beating Houston on Aug. 26. The Mets won for only the fifth time in their last 30 games at Citi Field and ended a team-record streak of 16 home games without scoring more than three runs.
Hairston hit a two-run homer and an RBI triple.
Jonathon Niese (12-9) allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings as New York won for just the second time in 12 games overall. Jacob Turner (1-3) gave up six runs — three earned — and eight hits in five innings.
ASTROS 7, PIRATES 1
HOUSTON — Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer and Justin Maxwell and Brett Wallace added solo shots to help the Astros coast to a win over Pittsburgh, further dampening the Pirates already dim postseason hopes.
The Pirates couldn’t find much offense as they lost their fourth straight game to fall to six games back for the second NL wild card spot. They’ve lost 16 of their last 20 games in this late-season swoon to fall to 74-76.
Houston starter Edgar Gonzalez lasted just 1 2-3 innings before leaving with a strained right hamstring. That forced the Astros to use six different relievers to cobble together the rest of the game. The bullpen combined to fan 11 and allow six hits. Fernando Rodriguez (2-10) struck out four in 3 1-3 innings for the win.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke (0-2) yielded three hits and three runs with a career-high eight strikeouts in five innings. He is 0-5 in eight career major league starts.
DIAMONDBACKS 15, ROCKIES 5
DENVER — Rookie Wade Miley tossed six innings for his 16th win, Chris Johnson homered among his three hits and drove in three runs, and the Diamondbacks beat the slumping Rockies.
Miguel Montero had three hits and three RBIs, and Adam Eaton added a home run for the Diamondbacks, who set season-highs with 15 runs and 19 hits.
Wilin Rosario had two hits for the Rockies, who have lost seven straight. Colorado needs to win five of its remaining 12 games to avoid losing 100 games for the first time in the franchise’s 20-year history.
Miley (16-10) is the second rookie NL pitcher since 1986 to win 16 games, according to the Diamondbacks. Jason Jennings also won 16 for Colorado in 2002 when he was named the NL Rookie of the Year.
GIANTS 5, PADRES 1
SAN FRANCISCO — Buster Posey hit a tiebreaking RBI single on the night he received a prestigious award and the Giants reduced their magic number for clinching the NL West to two with a victory over the Padres.
Posey was honored in a pregame ceremony with the “Willie Mac” award as the most inspirational player on the team. He then delivered another big hit when he drove in Marco Scutaro with a single off Casey Kelly (2-2) that gave San Francisco a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning.
That helped Ryan Vogelsong (13-9) match his career high in wins and put the Giants in position to clinch a division title as early as Saturday.