The Dodgers kept their playoff hopes alive and remain three games back of the final wild-card spot after winning two of three games against the NL Central champ Cincinnati Reds this weekend.  Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez had game-changing performances and Clayton Kershaw returned from a hip injury to pitch the season finale.  The Dodgers finished their 6-game road trip with a 3-3 record.  They will return home for the final nine games of the season.

INFIELDERS: C+

This was a tight series with not a lot of run production, as the Dodgers and the Reds combined for 18 total runs in three games.  The Dodgers infield had been relatively quiet until Sunday evening when Adrian Gonzalez finally went off and homered twice.  Sunday’s nationally televised game, won by the Dodgers 5-3 showcased what the Dodgers offense is capable of.  Gonzalez’s homers were his first since his very first at-bat with the Dodgers nearly a full month ago.  Sunday was Adrian’s first multi-homer game since August of last year.

Gonzalez was 4-for-12 in the series overall and has a six-game hitting streak.

Luis Cruz also continued to swing a hot bat.  Cruz also hit safely in all three games of the series going 4-for-11 with a run scored.

Hanley Ramirez was 2-for-11, scoring a run Friday night.

Mark Ellis was only 2-for-13 but he had an RBI double Sunday night.

A.J. Ellis continued to be held in check until Sunday when he finally broke out with a double, and an RBI sacrifice to score Dee Gordon.

Adrian Gonzalez has been putting the bat on the ball, and he finally broke through on Sunday, if Gonzalez can join Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to solidify the lineup, the Dodgers could slug their way to the playoffs.  A.J. Ellis was key to the Dodgers early success, and they will need him to bust out offensively, as well, in order to make it to the playoffs.

OUTFIELDERS: C

Matt Kemp provided some late inning heroics on Friday night, driving in the eventual winning runs off of Reds reliever Sean Marshall in the 10th inning.  However, he would go 0-for-8 the rest of the way in the series.  Overall Kemp was 3-for-13.

Andre Ethier hit safely in all three games of the series, he had an RBI fielder’s choice on Sunday night.

With Shane Victorino out because of a sore wrist, Juan Rivera got some playing time in left field.  He went 0-for-5 with an RBI groundout in Friday night’s 3-1 victory.

Elian Herrera started in left field Sunday night going 0-for-3.  However, Herrera scored a run after pinch-running Friday night, and stroked a single after coming in as a defensive replacement in Saturday’s 6-0 loss.

STARTING PITCHERS: B-

The Dodgers got enough starting pitching to stay in the game, and key to the playoff race, Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound Sunday night to pitch five innings of one-run ball.

Joe Blanton pitched the first game of the series going 5.2innings, holding Cincinnati to one run, while striking out six.  That game would remain tied 1-1 until the 10th inning when Matt Kemp singled home two.

Stephen Fife would take the mound Saturday afternoon.  Fife lasted five innings and held Cincinnati to two runs, but the Dodgers’ offense was completely shut down by Mat Latos, and Fife fell to 0-2 on the year, despite a 2.70 ERA in five starts.

After missing a start and having two delayed by a sore hip, Clayton Kershaw returned t0 the mound Sunday, and gave the Dodgers a shot in the arm by pitching five innings of one-run ball.  Kershaw did not factor in the decision, but his mere presence changes the game, and if the Dodgers have any hopes of a deep playoff run, they would have to include Kershaw at the top of the rotation.

BULLPEN: B-

With the starting pitching staff depleted, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been called upon to take on a bigger role in the games, and they have responded.  Four Dodgers’ relievers combined for 4.1 innings of scoreless ball on Friday.  Ronald Belisario collected his 8th win of the year Friday, and Shawn Tolleson collected his third win of the year on Sunday.

Brandon League appears to have a firm hold on the closer’s role, picking up his 4th and 5th saves as a Dodger in the series, as well.  Matt Guerrier gave up a home run to Brandon Phillips on Saturday, and Jamey Wright could not record an out, but the Dodgers got scoreless relief from Paco Rodriguez and Josh Wall.

The Dodgers will be off Monday, before going down to San Diego for three last games on the road before returning home.  The Dodgers lead the season series 9-6 against the Padres, but they have lost four of their last six games against the Padres, including dropping two of three at Dodger Stadium Sept. 3-5.

The Dodgers currently sit 3.0 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals and 2.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final Wild Card spot.

Will the Dodgers carry over the momentum from the weekend and run the table for the last week and a half of the season?  Winning out appears to be the only option for the Boys in Blue.  The Dodgers and the Padres are set to clash on Tuesday night.

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