A little bit of offense was all the Los Angeles Dodgers needed to break out of their slump and now they'll try to win back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month when they entertain the Cincinnati Reds tonight in the opener of a three-game series.
The Dodgers were mired in a seven-game losing streak and were held scoreless in five of six games until Sunday night's 8-3 win over the New York Mets in the finale of a four-game set from Chavez Ravine. Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was called on to put a stop to the slide and did just that, holding the Mets to three runs -- one earned -- in seven innings. He also struck out nine batters.
"A great game for us. We took advantage of their mistakes," said Kershaw. "We went through a rough patch but hopefully we got out of it tonight. It feels good to win."
James Loney drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout in the sixth inning and finished with two RBI for Los Angeles, which is still one game behind San Francisco for the NL West lead and won for the first time since June 23 against the LA Angels. Dee Gordon and Adam Kennedy had two hits and an RBI apiece in the win. The Dodgers will try to win consecutive games for the first time since June 9-10 against Seattle.
It was announced earlier Sunday that Kershaw and injured outfielder Matt Kemp were selected to the All-Star team. Kemp is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and is not expected to compete in the 83rd All-Star Game on July 10.
Chad Billingsley will try to start July much better than he ended June when he takes the Dodger Stadium mound Monday. Billingsley, who went 2-3 last month, lost all three of his starts to conclude June and last toed the rubber in Wednesday's 3-0 loss at San Francisco.
Billingsley allowed all three runs and nine hits in six innings against the division-rival Giants to fall to 4-7 in 16 starts with a 4.18 ERA. The right- hander might have some trouble tonight since he is just 1-3 in eight home starts and opposing hitters are batting .274 against him. In 10 career games (9 starts) against Cincinnati, Billingsley owns a 5-3 mark and a 4.84 ERA.
The Reds come into this series opener with LA off a tough loss in San Francisco on Sunday. They were upstaged by an RBI double from Angel Pagan that scored Buster Posey for the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"It's embarrassing," said Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who scored the tying run in the top of the ninth on a Miguel Cairo single. "It's a really, really tough way to lose."
Reds reliever Jose Arredondo was saddled with the loss and starter Bronson Arroyo tossed six inning of two-run ball for Cincinnati, which remained one game ahead of Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead and allowed St. Louis to pull within 2 1/2 games of the top spot in the division. Reds slugger Joey Votto did not play Sunday due to a knee injury and is hoping to return soon. He left Saturday's game against the Giants in the fifth inning with a left knee ailment.
"We'll have to see. I certainly didn't feel good," Votto said on the team's site. "I don't see why this should linger. There is nothing structural. It's an instance where [Friday] night it happens sliding sometimes. [Saturday] with the short turnaround, it lingered a little bit. I will be fine."
Votto, who is hitting .350 with 14 homers and 47 RBI, said he will have to get the go-ahead from head trainer Paul Lessard to return. He and teammates Bruce and Aroldis Chapman were named to the NL All-Star roster on Sunday.
Getting the call for the Reds tonight will be Homer Bailey. Bailey has lost back-to-back starts and is only 1-3 in his previous three decisions. He last pitched in Wednesday's 8-3 loss to Milwaukee in which he yielded five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits in four innings, falling to 5-6 in 15 starts with a 4.42 earned run average.
Bailey, a right-hander, has a strong road record at 4-2 in seven tries and will face the Dodgers for the fifth time in his career. He is 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA in this series.
Cincinnati won four of six matchups with Los Angeles a season ago, including a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium from June 13-15.