Although Paul Goldschmidt is making things difficult, the Los Angeles Dodgers should feel confident about moving closer to history behind one of their Cy Young candidates.
Clayton Kershaw will try to slow down Goldschmidt's power surge and help Los Angeles trim its magic number to win the NL West on Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers overcame Goldschmidt's 31st home run Wednesday when Chase Utley hit his eighth homer and Corey Seager added his third in a 4-1 victory. Their magic number to clinch a third straight division title for the first time in franchise history was cut to five when San Francisco lost later in the night.
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Los Angeles (86-65), which snapped a four-game losing streak, also holds a 1 1/2-game lead on East-leading New York in the race for home-field advantage in a potential division series matchup.
"Being in a playoff race is a nice change of pace from the last few years," said Utley, acquired from last-place Philadelphia on Aug. 19. "I'd almost forgotten what it was like to be in this atmosphere."
Kershaw (14-7, 2.18 ERA) is coming off his first loss since July 27, not that he pitched badly, though he did allow more than one earned run for the first time in eight starts. He was 9-0 with 0.98 ERA over his previous 13 outings before giving up three runs in seven innings in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
His outstanding run may have pushed him into the race for a fourth NL Cy Young Award, though teammate Zack Greinke (18-3, 1.65) - scratched Wednesday due to calf soreness - and Chicago's Jake Arrieta (20-6, 1.88) are the likely front-runners.
The reason he might lag behind is some early season struggles, including his only meeting with the Diamondbacks (73-79). Kershaw allowed season highs of six runs and 10 hits over 6 1-3 innings in that 6-0 road loss April 11, as Goldschmidt homered and A.J. Pollock went 3 for 3 off him. Kershaw, though, is 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 10 home starts versus Arizona.
Goldschmidt has gone 9 for 17 while homering in his last four games at Chavez Ravine, including three this week. He has a chance to become only the second player to go deep in five straight there in the same season. Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson was the first to do it from April 19-May 2.
The Diamondbacks are 6-12 in this season series despite Goldschmidt batting .391 with eight homers and 18 RBIs.
Arizona will turn to Patrick Corbin (6-4, 2.99) as it tries to win a series at Dodger Stadium for the first time since June 2013.
The left-hander has returned to his 2013 All-Star form after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery. He's gone 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA over his last five starts after allowing five hits over seven innings in Saturday's 6-0 win at San Francisco.
"My elbow feels great," Corbin said. "I haven't had an issue with that ever since I've come back. It seems like the last six or so starts, my arm is catching up, my body is getting used to doing this again. The season is coming to an end, but I wish I had a bunch more (starts)."
Corbin hasn't thrown more than 91 pitches in 14 starts since returning in July. He lost at home to the Dodgers on Sept. 13 despite allowing two runs in six innings, but he's 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA in three career outings at Chavez Ravine.
Justin Turner had two hits off Corbin earlier this month but is expected to miss a fifth straight game with a knee injury. Chris Heisey has two home runs in four career at-bats in the matchup.
The Dodgers, however, have batted .171 while totaling 13 runs over their last five games.
Arizona's Nick Ahmed is expected to miss at least two games with a sore lower back.