The difference-maker has been Ted Lilly, who got more run support than he had all season and won again Sunday, 8-3, over the Nationals at Dodger Stadium. Lilly went six innings, struck out six, walked none and allowed five hits. He allowed all three runs.
There was back-end support for Lilly from Kenley Jansen and Octavio Dotel, newcomers to a bullpen that looked like its former formidable self, too. Jansen and Dotel allowed a combined one hit over the seventh and eighth, striking out two apiece.
None of it means the Dodgers' chances at making a playoff run are necessarily good. But their chances might be as good as they can ever be for a team five games out of the National League Wild Card spot with 50 games left.
"It's a very formidable rotation, and at some point, if we get [Ronald] Belisario back, I think he'd give us a pretty darn good bullpen, too," manager Joe Torre said. "Especially now that [George] Sherrill is back capable of doing what we're doing. Lilly gives us good balance, but the fact that we have two left-handers in the rotation is really important. ... Pitching-wise, this is as good as we've been for a while. Offensively, I still think it's necessary to manufacture more than we have."
In a head-scratcher, the most run support the southpaw Lilly had received in 19 starts this season, 18 of them with the Cubs, was three runs. A trade to the Dodgers, who sport the worst offense in baseball since the All-Star break, didn't exactly promise a reversal of fortune.
What a surprise Lilly found in the first inning.
Washington's Jason Marquis was making just his fourth start of the season after 3 1/2 months on the disabled list because of bone chips in his right elbow, and the Dodgers jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
A pair of the runs came on a two-out single up the middle for Carroll, who finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs, a walk and a double. James Loney's single and a throwing error accounted for the other runs in the inning.
"There's been a lot of playing time this year, a lot of opportunity to try to stay in the flow of the game," said Carroll, who's started 39 games at shortstop. "I understand my role and try to prepare mentally for that. Today, I'm not saying I really knocked the cover off the ball."
Lilly's only struggles came from the long ball in the top of the second.
Michael Morse, who took away a grand slam from the Dodgers on Saturday, hit his eighth home run of the season to cut the lead to 4-1. Two pitches later, Justin Maxwell went back-to-back with his second of the season.
"I felt a little flat," Lilly said. "I thought my ball was a little flat so I had to work to try to get back on top of it and get a little plane to it. ... The fastball that I threw to Mike Morse was decent, and he pulled his hands inside and kept that ball fair. A lot of times guys hit that ball, maybe square it up and hit it well, but hit it foul. And he was able to keep his hands inside there. The other pitch was a slider."
The Dodgers' offense kept on the pressure, though, and Marquis was done after four-plus innings and five runs, though three of the runs were unearned.
Jay Gibbons came through with an RBI single up the middle in his first Major League at-bat since Aug. 12, 2007. The Dodgers purchased the contract of the 33-year-old left-handed hitter and seven-year Major League vet from Triple-A Albuquerque before the game. His single made it 6-2.
"It definitely felt like a while," Gibbons said. "Too long. I think the nerves were more before the game. Once I got on deck, I was just trying to take it all in ... it's been a while since I've been in a big league ballpark."
The bench came through again in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Reed Johnson's one-out single increased the lead to 8-3. Johnson is 2-for-3 since returning from the disabled list with a pair of pinch-hits.
The only disquieting part of the win was the heart of the Dodgers' lineup. Loney had the only hit of the Nos. 2 through 4 hitters, while Matt Kemp struck out four times.
"Today was a good day," Torre said. "But we need more contributions from the guys in the middle."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.