Phillies not making it easy for Dodgers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Los Angeles Dodgers will not be leaving Philadelphia with their fifth straight National League West title.

They don't want to take a fifth straight loss with them, either.

The Dodgers play the finale of a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, and they cannot clinch their fifth consecutive division title even if they win.

The magic number remained at two after the Dodgers fell to the Phillies 7-5 on Wednesday night and the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks rallied to beat the San Diego Padres 13-7. The Diamondbacks are off Thursday.

Los Angeles will play the last contest of a 10-game road trip that leads into its final homestand of the regular season.

The Dodgers (96-56) have already clinched a playoff spot and still own the best record in baseball despite dropping 20 of their past 25 games.

"There might be a little bit of that," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said of his team getting anxious to clinch the division. "We just seem like we're so close to that finish line as far as clinching. But (Wednesday night) the energy was really good."

Meanwhile, the Phillies (61-91) have come from behind to win the first three games of the series.

"They're a playoff team," Philadelphia center fielder Odubel Herrera said of the Dodgers. "For everyone in the clubhouse, it's motivation to come in here and play hard."

Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr has hit a home run in each of the first three games of the series. He hit a grand slam off Clayton Kershaw on Monday night and recorded three hits and four RBI on Wednesday.

The Phillies are 11-8 in August and 18-14 over their past 32 games.

"I think what (Phillies manager Pete Mackanin) and his coaching staff is doing with those guys is tremendous," Roberts said. "They're an athletic group, they play the game the right way, and they play hard."

Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21 ERA) will take the ball for the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon, making his fourth career start against the Phillies. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP against Philadelphia in his career, including a strong appearance on April 28 when he held the Phillies to two runs in seven innings and recorded eight strikeouts.

Thursday will be Maeda's first start since Sept. 11, as the Dodgers opted to skip his scheduled start Sunday in Washington.

Things did not go as well for Maeda in his most recent outing. The 29-year-old from Japan gave up four runs to the San Francisco Giants in three innings of Los Angeles' 8-6 loss.

Maeda likely will be shifted to the Dodgers' bullpen during the postseason, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Phillies rookie Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93 ERA) will be make his 10th big-league start of the season Thursday. Leiter has bounced between the bullpen and the rotation this season -- as well as from Triple-A to the majors -- but he has been part of the Phillies' rotation for the past month.

The right-hander is 3-5 with a 5.19 ERA as a starter. He allowed a total of eight runs in 12 innings over his past two starts, but he struck out 17 in that span.

Leiter pitched a scoreless inning of relief against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on April 28 in his major league debut.
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