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Sunday, August 31, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 7, Padres 1

By Mark Saxon

SAN DIEGO -- Their bats finally warmed up after 29 innings in a deep freeze, and the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to avoid a costly sweep with a 7-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday afternoon.

The San Francisco Giants kept the heat on the Dodgers by winning their sixth game in a row, but the Dodgers were able to maintain a 2½-game lead in the NL West going into the season’s final month.

How it happened: Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6) pitched seven strong innings after being activated from the disabled list before the game. But good pitching hasn’t been the problem here. Instead, big hits have been in short supply. The Dodgers finally got plenty of those during a four-run eighth inning that blew the game open and ended nearly three days of frustration at Petco Park. Juan Uribe stroked an RBI single to right and Darwin Barney drove in two more by going the other way, too. Entering the eighth, the Dodgers were 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position and had scored just four runs in 29 innings during the series.

Hits: Matt Kemp’s power is back, and it has given the Dodgers a major lift with Hanley Ramirez in and out of the lineup and Yasiel Puig struggling. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of Kemp getting healthier, which suggests he could have further room for improvement, a tantalizing possibility. On this road trip, Kemp is 8-for-20 with three doubles, a home run and five RBIs. The Dodgers needed someone to step up and help them emerge from their offensive funk here, and Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez (4-for-5) did so. Kemp had an RBI single and a ringing double off the left-field wall.

Misses: Puig is lost. The box score credits him with a double, but that was a soaring fly ball to right field that both the second baseman and right fielder lost in the sun. Puig has completely abandoned the patient approach that helped him so much in May and is swinging at virtually everything. He struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt in the fifth inning and another breaking ball in the eighth, then hit another fly ball to right in the third. Puig’s batting average has quietly slipped under .300 for the first time since May 1. He hit .212 with just two extra-base hits in August. His confidence is a major issue for this team going into September. Perhaps he can flip the switch as he has done in previous months?

Stat of the game: The reason the Dodgers decided to use Ryu on Sunday rather than waiting until Monday -- when they wouldn’t need to make a roster move -- is that Ryu came into the game with a 2-0 record and 0.47 ERA against the Padres this season. Now, he’s 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA. Not too shabby.

Up next: The Dodgers open a three-game series against the first-place Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on Monday evening at 5:10 PT. Roberto Hernandez (2-1, 3.52 ERA) goes for the Dodgers, while Gio Gonzalez (6-9, 3.86) takes the mound for Washington.