The way the Dodgers are playing these days, it might not matter.
Behind eight innings from starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and a two-run home run by Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers opened their three-game series against the Red Sox with a 2-0 victory Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
With their 46th win in 56 games, the Dodgers extended their lead to 101/2 games over second-place Arizona in the National League West. The last time they held a double-digit division lead was in 1977, when they finished the season 10 games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Dodgers also improved their record to 76-52, tied for second-best in the majors.
Manager Don Mattingly said this series would be a test for the Dodgers, facing a team that went into Friday's game as the top team in what is probably baseball's most competitive division. In their last homestand, the Dodgers swept the Tampa Bay Rays, who are now in a virtual tie with the Red Sox atop the American League East.
"You know when you get Tampa and Boston, you get teams that play these games every night," Mattingly said. "They beat each other up all the time. I think it's just good baseball."
For at least one player, these games are more than something by which to measure the Dodgers. They are intensely personal.
Carl Crawford was one of four players the Red Sox sent to the Dodgers last year in a blockbuster trade. Crawford, who was miserable in the two seasons he spent in Boston, said, "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to beat these guys. I'm glad I have a good team behind me that feels the same way."
Crawford was two for three with two stolen bases and was on base when Ramirez hit his home run off Red Sox starter John Lackey in the fourth inning.
Lackey was otherwise close to flawless, limiting the Dodgers to three hits over eight innings.
"Hanley, he's one of those guys that hits good pitching," Mattingly said.
Ramirez said the key was to remain patient.
"You have to stay tough and keep fighting until the mistake happens," said Ramirez, who has 13 home runs and 42 runs batted in in only 63 games this season.
Nolasco (10-9) made the two-run lead stand, giving up only two hits. It was the 11th time in the Dodgers' last 27 games that the starting pitcher didn't allow an earned run.
"Good tempo, good rhythm," said Nolasco, who walked none and struck out six.
Nolasco encountered danger in the fifth inning, when he plunked Daniel Nava and gave up a single to Stephen Drew with one out. But Nolasco responded by forcing Will Middlebrooks to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"What I like about Ricky is that when he gets in a little trouble, he's got another gear," Mattingly said. "He doesn't get rattled out there."
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his 22nd save.
Dodger Stadium was filled close to capacity, with 50,240 tickets sold for the game, according to the team.
"I think the stadium is much more lively," said Mark Walter, the team's controlling owner. "I think people are having fun. The city stuck by us when we were 30-42 and a big disappointment. Now, they're getting a big reward for that."
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