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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Adrian has been Dodgers' saving grace

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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

LOS ANGELES -- Set the table, clear it. Sweep and mop the floor. Whatever Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, in his hour of need, asks of Adrian Gonzalez, the first baseman seems happy to oblige.

The Dodgers, in front of Dr. Buzz Aldrin and 49,953 on Memorial Day at Dodger Stadium, weren't doing much to impress the famous astronaut or their fans before Gonzalez went to work.

By the time Gonzalez was finished drilling in his perfect night, the Dodgers had carved out an 8-7 victory, snapping an eight-game Angels winning streak. Gonzalez had delivered four of his team's 13 hits and scored four times, tying a career high.

Mattingly, the embattled leader, was able to exhale through a smile for a change.

"We're just trying to survive," the manager said, "and get on a roll."

It wasn't exactly walking on the moon, Aldrin style, but the show of grit in rallying from a five-run deficit certainly was exhilarating to Mattingly and his troupe.

"It was a big win," Gonzalez said. "We battled. We need to keep grinding it out, turn things around. We're playing hard. We have a lot of energy from the first pitch to the last pitch. There's definitely a better vibe."

They began the game as if they wanted to torture their leader, handing the Angels a pair of unearned first-inning runs with three misplays behind Zack Greinke.

Gonzalez, who has made a career of hammering lefties as well as right-handers, opened the second inning against southpaw C.J. Wilson with a double to center. Scott Van Slyke's RBI double to left rousted the faithful in Chavez Ravine.

The Angels, meanwhile, were pounding away at Greinke, rocking their former teammate for 10 hits, including four doubles and a Mike Trout triple, in four-plus innings.

Leading off the fourth with his team down, 6-1, Gonzalez banged a second double, scoring on Ramon Hernandez's sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Gonzalez left the table-setting to Luis Cruz and Greinke, who put together consecutive singles in front of Mark Ellis' two-run double.

When Gonzalez lashed a single through the middle, the Dodgers were one run down. Van Slyke -- taking full advantage of his opportunity to show he can scald like his father, Andy -- banged a double off the wall in left, bringing Gonzalez all the way around to tie it.

"We put together a lot of good at-bats, up and down the lineup -- even the guys off the bench," Ellis said. "It was a very productive night. We started off playing terrible defense, but we were able to score runs and show some life and fire."

Gonzalez put together four star-quality at-bats, lifting his average to .337 during a 9-for-11 spree. His 37 RBIs are 20 more than those tallied by Matt Kemp, the next closest teammate, underscoring how valuable Adrian has been.

Picking up the slack for the struggling Kemp, Gonzalez ranks among the National League leaders in slugging (.515) and on-base percentage (.395).

"He's on fire," Ellis said. "He's a really good hitter -- has been for a long time. I've seen it for a long time when he was with the Padres and Boston, too."

Gonzalez has been in the comfort zone with the bat most of the season.

"Adrian swung the bat great tonight," said Mattingly, a first baseman similar in so many ways to Gonzalez in his Yankees prime in the 1980s. "He's been great all year, solid all year."

The Dodgers' most productive position players this season have been Gonzalez, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford, the former Red Sox athletes acquired along with starter Josh Beckett in August's blockbuster deal.

"To tell you the truth," Greinke said of Gonzalez, "I've never seen him not swing good. So I kind of expected this from him always -- kind of like Trout and [Ryan] Braun and Miguel Cabrera. I don't expect to expect to see slumps from him."

Punto, who landed on his back after a collision with Aybar at second ending the second inning, left the game in the sixth inning. Punto is hitting .327 with a .413 on-base percentage. Crawford, hitting .308 with a team-high 30 runs scored, got the night off against Wilson, who has been rough on him in the past.

Jerry Hairston took over in left for Crawford and drove in the decisive run in the seventh with a single to right center against Robert Coello. The man scoring that run was Gonzalez, who singled with one out and moved into scoring position on Andre Ethier's pinch-hit walk.

Gonzalez understands what Kemp is going through as tries to bust out of his season-long funk. Four times he struck out after lining out in his first at-bat, fans responding to each of his whiffs with boos.

"He works hard," Gonzalez said of Kemp, whose average fell to .253. "He's one of the first guys here every day. He's doing everything he can.

"I've been in that situation before where you try harder. When you try harder, things don't go your way. When you're struggling, I would say 99 percent of the time it's because [you're] trying too hard for the team, the fans. He definitely doesn't deserve to be booed, that's for sure."

Mattingly indicated he might move Kemp into a less demanding spot in the order to try to lift some of the pressure he's feeling.

"We're going to need Matt," Mattingly said. "I just don't give up on guys. I'm not going to give up on Matt. Matt's going to get going."

Lyle Spencer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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