PITTSBURGH -- With the Trade Deadline deals that brought in Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino, the Dodgers have a dangerous lineup, and they know it. There was perhaps no better illustration of that fact than the fourth inning of Wednesday's 9-3 win, during which Matt Kemp strode to the plate with men on second and third and one out. Although first base was open, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle decided to let starter Wandy Rodriguez pitch to Kemp, who laced a double to right field, bringing in two runs and extending Los Angeles' lead from one run to three. "It forces you to really make a decision," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, referring to the heart of his lineup. "Clint's got a tough call, because Hanley's hitting like .400 off of Wandy. If you don't have that guy back there, then it's a no-brainer decision."
Kemp's big hit gave the Dodgers a little separation from Pittsburgh. They saw some more when Ramirez followed with another double, driving in Kemp. In the win, the Kemp-Ramirez-Andre Ethier trio went a combined 6-for-14 with four RBIs and three runs. "They're kind of coming at me now, because they know I have either Dre or Hanley behind me," said Kemp, who is getting fewer walks lately. "Dre is somebody who can drive in runs. Hanley is somebody who can drive in runs. [You] can't just walk me and not pay for it. These guys have really done a great job of driving in runs." Kemp wasn't just referring to the few sluggers who hit near him in the order. Overall, he's pleased with how the entire lineup has performed at the plate. And when you look at the recent results, who could argue? In winning four straight games and six out of the past seven, the Dodgers have averaged 11.4 hits and 6.3 runs per game, dating back to an Aug. 8 win against the Rockies. Their 11 runs on Tuesday and 15 hits on Wednesday both tied season highs. But while things have been smooth offensively, Mattingly knows that such a spurt might not be permanent. "I always look at it like it comes and goes," Mattingly said. "Hitting is one of those things that gets contagious when things are going good. "Like, we didn't score at home. We weren't really swinging the bats good at home. I know we were trying to, I know we were working and so you don't really panic on it. Hitting's just funny. It goes in and out. I've seen really good teams where they go through stretches where they don't score. It's tough." Mattingly must like the way things are working at the moment, though. His club entered Thursday's series finale against the Pirates with sole possession of first place in the National League West, which it hadn't enjoyed since July 13. As Kemp put it: "My guys are playing really good right now."