The Los Angeles Dodgers need seven more wins to clinch the National League West after a 14-2 demolition of the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. The victory also moved the Dodgers to within two victories of guaranteeing a play-off spot. The Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who last week said that home-field advantage in the play-offs was not a priority, reversed course and said the Dodgers would aim to finish the season with the best record in the league.
"It's a carrot to dangle for ourselves," he said. The Washington starter Livan Hernandez lasted less than four innings on a night when the Dodgers collected 15 hits and batted around the order twice. Rafael Furcal was four for five, drove in four runs and scored two. And the right fielder Andre Ethier was pleased with how the Dodgers appeared to be over their problem of playing down to the level of their opposition. "We know we can close things out here. We're getting close. We're getting to a point where it's a few games here or there," he said.
Hiroki Kuroda was charged with two unearned runs over six innings on his way to earning his third consecutive win, and Clayton Kershaw pitched two scoreless innings to remain in line to pitch on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Elsewhere in the National League, Philadelphia opened their two-game set against Florida with a 9-3 win thanks to Ryan Howard who drove in three runs, Jayson Werth had two RBIs and Raul Ibanez hit a solo shot.
The Marlins got value from Josh Johnson, who struck out 10 over five innings at Land Shark Stadium. In the second game the Marlins won 3-0, shutting out the Phillies as Anibal Sanchez outpitched Jamie Moyer. Dan Uggla and Cody Ross ripped solo shots for Florida. Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens won his fourth start against the Mets as the Braves beat New York 3-1. Jurrjens allowed one run on five hits while striking out two and walking three and Yunel Escobar singled home two runs in the fourth.
Joel Pineiro limited the Houston Astros to one run over seven frames as the St Louis Cardinals won 11-2. Home runs from Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina kept the Cardinals in charge. A homer for Andrew McCutchen and RBI doubles from Ronny Cedeno and Robinzon Diaz were the few highlights for Pittsburgh as the Pirates lost 10-4 to the Cincinnati Reds. Dave Bush was unable to make it out of the second inning, allowing five earned runs, as the Milwaukee Brewers lost 7-2 to the Chicago Cubs. Prince Fielder hit his 41st homer for RBI number 129.
San Diego scored four in the ninth but still lost 11-10 to Colorado. Arizona were 10-8 winners over San Francisco. * With agencies