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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."
Dodgers encouraged by Hairston's MRI
PITTSBURGH -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was encouraged by the initial results from an MRI exam infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. underwent on his left hip on Wednesday.
Hairston is scheduled to be examined by two hip specialists. Mattingly can't say for certain when Hairston will return, but the manager liked what he heard following the MRI.
"It sounded pretty good so far," Mattingly said. "They probably want to wait to talk about it until they actually hear the specialists talk about it. But the initial kind of thoughts on it were pretty good.
"[There's] some stuff in there -- not sure if that's normal kind of wear and tear with guys [who have] played a long time. Pretty good result for us so far."
If the meetings with the specialists go well, Mattingly said Hairston should be able to participate in baseball activities within a few days.
The Dodgers placed the 36-year-old on the 15-day disabled list with left hip inflammation on Monday, retroactive to Sunday. The team is confident Hairston will be able to return to the active roster when the two weeks are up.
In 78 games this season, Hairston has hit .273 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. The majority of his appearances have come at third and second base.
The Dodgers are 12-1 in games played in the eastern time zone this season. They're 3-0 in Pittsburgh, 2-1 in Miami, 4-0 in Philadelphia and 3-0 in New York against the Mets.
Los Angeles has won nine in a row against the Pirates and 12 of the past 13. Since 2001, the Dodgers are 63-23 (.733) against Pittsburgh.