The streaking Los Angeles Dodgers aim to close out their rare home series with the Tampa Bay Rays on a high note as the teams clash in Chavez Ravine one last time on Sunday.
Aside from the Atlanta Braves, who finally had their win streak snapped at 14 games on Saturday by Miami, the Dodgers have been the hottest team in the major leagues since the All-Star Break, taking 19 of 22 games in order to move out to a 6 1/2 game lead over Arizona for first place in the National League West standings.
Starter Zack Greinke came up with his 10th win of the campaign as he scattered six hits, walked one and struck out seven, over the course of 6 1/3 shutout innings in a 5-0 triumph on Saturday. The victory was the squad's fourth in a row and the ninth in the last 10 contests.
Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez both tallied a pair of hits and two runs batted in, the latter connecting on his 16th home run of the season in the process. Skip Schumaker was perfect in four at-bats, while rookie phenom Yasiel Puig accepted a pair of walks and struck out once as the Dodgers improved to 33-25 at home.
"Things have been going well for us now for a couple months," Punto said. "Every day you wake up and are excited to get to the yard. It's just a great atmosphere."
As for the Rays, who are losing ground in the American League East, now three games behind division-leading Boston, they managed to produce six hits, two of which came from Ben Zobrist, but at the same time they struck out nine times and earned just a single walk during their fourth consecutive setback.
"I just think there was several games that we had a chance to win and we gave them up," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's not normally our DNA. We'll get back to being who we are. It's just that everything is not flowing as it had been. Happens. I'm not concerned. We'll be fine. Dodgers got us. Diamondbacks hit the ball well against us and we gave up two games, so that's part of it."
Saddled with the loss was Roberto Hernandez as he gave up five runs on eight hits in a mere four innings of work.
Hoping to put a two-game losing streak behind him, Jeremy Hellickson is slated to take the hill for the Rays tonight against Los Angeles. The right-hander first bowed to Arizona back on July 31 and was then turned away by the Diamondbacks a week later, marking the first time this season he has had to deal with consecutive setbacks.
On Monday the Iowa native was touched for five runs on five hits and three walks in just 4 2/3 innings. In the previous encounter Hellickson made it through just 4 1/3 innings as he surrendered four runs on seven hits in a 7-0 defeat.
Originally drafted by the Rays in 2005, Hellickson, who has been up with the big club since 2010, is getting his first-ever look at the Dodgers in this series finale as he guns for his 11th win of the season.
Also shooting for his 11th victory will be Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers. The National League's leader in ERA heading into the weekend with a mark of 1.91, the left-hander hasn't won since July 26 when he topped the Cincinnati Reds at home.
Most recently, Kershaw went up against St. Louis on Tuesday and suffered his first loss since the second week of July. The Texas native lasted six innings, permitting two runs on six hits and a couple of walks, while striking out five.
Like Hellickson, Kershaw is also facing off against today's opponent for the first time in his career.
Thanks in part to a 2-0 showing against Tampa Bay thus far, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball since June 22 with a mark of 36-8. In fact, that's also the club's best record over a 44-game stretch since the 1953 campaign as well.