LOS ANGELES -- It might be awhile before the Los Angeles Dodgers get to test themselves against a playoff-bound team to see if they can fare a bit better than this past weekend, when the Boston Red Sox snapped them back to reality by outscoring, outhitting and outpitching them in their three-game series.
But man have the Dodgers learned how to take care of business against the dregs of the National League.
Greinke struck out nine and gave up just five hits in 8 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t allow a runner past first base until the eighth inning, when he walked Donnie Murphy and Wellington Castillo in back-to-back at bats. That precipitated a visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, and Greinke got ground balls from Darwin Barney and pinch hitter Dioner Navarro to get out of the inning.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gave Greinke every opportunity to close out what would’ve been his second shutout of the season, allowing him to hit for himself in the bottom of the inning and pitch to both Nate Schierholtz and Brian Bogusevic after giving up a two-out double to Anthony Rizzo. The crowd of 40,965 booed Mattingly’s first visit to the mound, after Grienke gave up the double to Rizzo, but with a pitch count climbing into the 120s, and hitting Schierholtz and giving up a two-run double to Bogusevic, it was time to pull him. Greinke left to a standing ovation from the crowd and Brian Wilson struck out Murphy to close out the win.
The Dodgers (77-54) are now 18-4 in Greinke’s 22 starts.
Greinke also drew first blood with his bat, singling in catcher A.J. Ellis in the fourth inning after L.A. had left four runners on base in the first three innings. Greinke continues to lead all National League pitchers with a .340 batting average after going 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI Monday night.
Yasiel Puig went 3-for-5 Monday, including a monster 439-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Carl Crawford extended his current hitting streak to eight games with an RBI ground-rule double in the fourth, and drove home another run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth to extend the lead to 4-0.
Nick Punto started at third base in place of Juan Uribe, who was given the day off. As usual, the veteran utility man gave the Dodgers a lift, going 1-for-3, driving in a run with a double in the sixth inning, scoring two runs and making a sparkling backhanded play on Navarro’s soft ground ball down the line in the eighth to preserve Greinke’s shutout.
Hanley Ramirez blasted a 398-foot home run to left field in the seventh, his 14th of the season and second of this homestand after his two-run blast won Friday night’s game against the Red Sox.
The Dodgers won’t face a team over .500 until September 6 when they travel to Cincinnati. They’ll host the Cubs (55-78) for two more games on Tuesday and Wednesday, the San Diego Padres (59-72) for three games over the weekend and travel to Colorado (62-71) for a three-game set next week.