The Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke has been lobbying to pitch deeper into games, and manager Don Mattingly is listening.
It hasn't hurt that the right-hander has been one of baseball's top pitchers over the past two months.
After winning all five of his August starts in impressive fashion, Greinke will look to carry that success into September on Sunday against the visiting San Diego Padres.
Carl Crawford snapped out of a 2-for-20 slump with three hits and pinch-hitter Mark Ellis singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning as Los Angeles won its third straight with a 2-1 victory Saturday.
The surging Dodgers (80-55), who have a 10 1/2-game lead in the NL West, look to build on their 23-6 August - the most wins in a month since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.
They sought to get even better Saturday by picking up veteran Michael Young from the Phillies in exchange for left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Young has been on a tear, going 13 for 26 over his last six games.
"We like the guys that we have, but Michael just adds to it,' said Mattingly, who plans to use Young to spell Juan Uribe at third base or Adrian Gonzalez at first.
While Young figures to make the offense stronger, the Dodgers' pitching staff has certainly been a strength with a major-league best 2.46 ERA - far ahead of Atlanta's second-best 3.07 - during this stretch of 50 wins in 63 games.
Greinke (13-3, 2.86 ERA) has played a major role, going 10-1 with a 2.14 ERA while limiting opponents to a .217 batting average over that span. He's tied with Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano (10-3) for the most wins in the majors since June 22.
After badgering his skipper for a month to let him continue into the later innings, Greinke came within one strike of his fifth career shutout before giving up a two-run double in Monday's 6-2 victory over the Cubs. He ended up allowing two runs and five hits while striking out nine and throwing 122 pitches over his 8 2-3 innings.
"I'm a little torn with it, honestly," Mattingly said. "I wanted to keep him at 115 (pitches), but he's earned the right to go for it.'
Greinke will attempt to win six straight starts for the first time since winning nine in a row bridging the 2008-09 seasons. He's gone 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA while helping Los Angeles win both his starts against the Padres.
San Diego (60-75) hopes to avoid its fifth loss in six games by giving the ball to Tyson Ross (3-7, 3.05).
Since going 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA with 36 strikeouts in five starts after rejoining the rotation in late July, Ross has allowed 11 runs and 13 hits over 12 1-3 innings while dropping his last two. He was charged with season highs of six runs and seven hits in six-plus innings in a 6-1 loss at Arizona on Monday.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in three appearances versus the Dodgers this season. He allowed one run and six hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-2 win at Dodger Stadium on April 17 in his only career start against them.
Gonzalez is 3 for 4 with a double when facing Ross, and is hitting .463 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 14 home games against the Padres.
The Associated Press News Service
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