At least as long as the San Francisco Giants continue to struggle, the best rivalry in the NL West has shifted a bit south and a bit east. And, for the first time in years, the Los Angeles Dodgers gained the upper hand.
The Arizona Diamondbacks blew a ninth-inning lead Wednesday, and the Dodgers made them pay a couple of hours later when Hanley Ramirez and A.J. Ellis hit home runs to give them a 7-5 win in the 14th inning at Chase Field. The Dodgers cut Arizona's division lead to just 1½ games, getting as close as they've been to first place since April 14.
As the game appeared to be winding down, with Arizona closer Heath Bell polishing off Mark Ellis and Yasiel Puig for two quick outs in the ninth, the crowd chanted, "Beat L.A.!" Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said, "And it's only July."
But the Dodgers then rallied to tie it with two outs. A walk and a Ramirez single set up A.J. Ellis' two-out RBI single. The Dodgers, at 45-45, are at .500 for the first time since April 30, the day before they lost eight straight games. They have won 15 of their past 18 games.
Before the game, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero made some comments about Puig that are sure to fan the simmering hostility between the two teams. Puig collided with Montero in Tuesday night's game, then -- in Montero's view -- stared at him on the way to the dugout.
"He's got so much talent, it'd be really bad if he wasted it doing the stupid things that he's doing," Montero told reporters covering the Diamondbacks. "You have to respect to earn respect. If you don't respect anybody, you aren't going to earn respect."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters in response to Montero's comments, "Honestly, every team has guys that irritate you. They've got a few of them over there, too."
A bigger issue for the Dodgers has been some tapering off of Puig's hot hitting. Batting .443 after the team's July 2 game, Puig has hit .250 since, including Wednesday's 1-for-7 effort, his batting average now under .400 for the first time since he came up on June 3.
Montero and Puig were both heavily involved in the teams' June 11 brawl at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks play seven more times this season, all between Sept. 9 and 19. If the teams' past few series are any indication, those could be exciting days.
It didn't look good for a while early in Wednesday's game. It turned out to be the worst major-league outing for Hyun-Jin Ryu. The 26-year-old rookie from South Korea gave up five runs in five innings. It was only the second time this season Ryu had failed to get at least one out in the sixth inning. The big blow was Paul Goldsmiths's line drive into the alley in right-center to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs.
Nick Punto, who has struggled for more than a month after a hot start, twice popped up with a runner at third with fewer than two outs.