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COL@LAD: Kemp's two-run homer gives Dodgers the lead

LOS ANGELES -- With their two franchise players healthy enough to play MVP and Cy Young-caliber baseball, on top of their revamped, star-studded offense finally clicking, the Dodgers have shown these past five games what could have been and what many expected.

Unfortunately for them, it is coming a few weeks too late.

Another Matt Kemp homer powered Los Angeles to its fifth straight win on Sunday, 7-1 over the Rockies, but St. Louis won earlier in the day to keep the Dodgers two games back in the National League Wild Card race with a magic number of two.

"All we can do is take care of what we can control and think about winning every game," said Josh Beckett, who gave up just a solo homer in the fourth to Andrew Brown. "Ultimately, we put ourselves in this hole and we've got to try to climb out of it."

L.A. has now outscored its opponents, 34-7, over the past five games. After going 11-17 following the megadeal with Boston last month, the retooled Dodgers are finally meeting expectations these past five games.

Four new Dodgers pitchers (Beckett, Joe Blanton, Brandon League and Randy Choate) have thrown 14 2/3 innings of one-run ball with 13 strikeouts during the past five games. On the other end, four new batters (Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Nick Punto) have batted 27-for-69 (.391) with nine RBIs and 16 runs in that same span.

Kemp, who is batting 11-for-20 with seven runs and nine RBIs in the past five games, and Clayton Kershaw, who threw eight scoreless innings Friday, have combined with those new players to show what this team is capable of doing.

"We thought we were going to give ourselves chances and put pressure on a team fairly regularly," manager Don Mattingly said about whether this is what he expected. "Pitching was still going to shut you down. Good pitching is going to beat good hitting, but I did think we would fairly consistently be this type of club.

"We haven't been this club. It just took a little bit."

With an outside shot at still making the playoffs, the Dodgers kept that pressure on the Cardinals thanks to 12 hits and six innings of one-run ball by Beckett.

The offensive production began in the fourth with a home run by Kemp off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa that just cleared the wall in right-center and came with Victorino on base to give L.A. a 2-1 lead.

Kemp, who was batting only .115 (7-for-61) in 14 games since crashing into the wall in Colorado a month ago, seems to have regained his stroke with his fourth homer of the winning streak.

"See the ball, hit the ball," he said. "I really can't explain what it is. I just feel good at the moment."

The next batter in the fourth, Gonzalez, singled to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, and Luis Cruz, who had his family in the stands from Mexico, drilled a home run into the Dodgers' bullpen to increase the lead to 4-1.

The Dodgers added one more in the fifth on an RBI single by Ramirez that brought home Victorino. A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer in the sixth for some more insurance.

"The home run ball got us," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Jorge started out and his tempo, his mechanics, his delivery looked as good as I've seen it in the three times he's been out there. He made a couple of bad pitches."

St. Louis hosts a Cincinnati team that, fortunately for the Dodgers, still has something to play for with a chance to finish with the NL's best record and home-field advantage.

"Hopefully they sweep them or get two from them and we go wherever it takes us," Kemp said. "We really can't worry about what they are doing over there. As long as we keep winning, we still know there is hope."

The Dodgers will take on the Giants in three more must-win games, and they could host a tiebreaker Thursday at Dodger Stadium if the Cardinals lose two of three to the Reds (the season series is tied 6-6).

Kemp admitted thoughts of what if and what could have been creep into the players' heads, but at this point all they are concerned about is winning the next game.

"You can't really think like that right now," he said. "There is a plan for everything and hopefully our plan is to make the postseason. If we continue to keep doing what we are doing, there is a chance we can squeak in there. The way we are playing, I would like our chances against anybody."

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