LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' recent tendency to score late and win often will probably have to continue Monday, whether they want to operate that way or not.
The reason is they are facing New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who is putting together a historic season despite being on one of the worst teams in the majors.
The Dodgers took nine days to erase a 4 1/2-game deficit in the National League West by using their late-inning rally strategy to perfection.
Matt Kemp moved the Dodgers into sole possession of first place in the NL West with a game-ending two-run double off Brad Boxberger to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday. Los Angeles moved into a tie atop the division Saturday when Kemp hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning.
"It's the coaches, the players and just the hyper-focus on each day," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Sunday's victory. It's hard to not scoreboard watch and feel that 4 1/2 [games] is not a big number to [overcome]. Our goal each day was to just play good baseball."
In order to stay in front in the NL West on their own terms, though, the Dodgers will have to get through deGrom.
The right-hander is on a march to possibly win the National League Cy Young Award, even if his 8-8 record seems to suggest otherwise. He will enter with a 1.68 ERA, the third best since 1968.
A pair of Mets records could belong to deGrom exclusively by the time Monday's game ends. He currently has 24 consecutive starts of three earned runs or less, tied with Dwight Gooden (1985) for the longest run in franchise history. His 19 consecutive quality starts are also tied for the most in team history.
"He continues to do the job," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, according to MLB.com. "He's just an all-around player, and the best pitcher in baseball at this point."
The Dodgers can hang their optimism on the fact that the Mets are somehow just 11-16 in games deGrom has started. They can also feel good about their eight victories over their past nine games, as they aim for their sixth consecutive NL West title.
At 61-75, the Mets are out of contention in the NL East, but deGrom still has plenty to pitch for. His main competition for a Cy Young Award appears to come from the Nationals' Max Scherzer, the Rockies' Kyle Freeland and the Phillies' Aaron Nola.
The competition at present, though, is a Dodgers offense that has surged thanks to hot bats from Manny Machado (nine home runs in 41 games with the Dodgers) and Justin Turner (.402 batting average, 1.213 OPS in August).
The Dodgers will call on Alex Wood to start opposite deGrom. The left-hander has worked his way through nagging leg injuries this season but has still managed to post an 8-6 record with a 3.42 ERA.
Formerly a member of the NL East when he pitched for the Atlanta Braves, Wood knows the Mets well having made nine starts against them in his six seasons. Wood is 1-3 against New York with a 3.83 ERA.
In seven starts against the Dodgers in his career, deGrom still does not have a victory over the West Coast foe. He has a 3.43 ERA against them over 44 2/3 innings.