LOS ANGELES -- There was no overstating the importance of what the Reds did on Wednesday night. They brought a season-high four-game losing streak into the game and were faced with sinking further below .500
They needed, and Homer Bailey delivered, a stopper-like performance. And the Reds got something that's often burned them this season -- a victory in a one-run game by taking a 3-2 outcome over the Dodgers to end their winless drought and finish the three-game series on a high note.
"It was a really big win. Whew, we needed that one," Bailey said. "You don't ever want to get swept -- I don't care where you're at or who you're playing. We really needed that, especially with a road trip tonight heading over to Phoenix. We need to start that series on a good note."
Bailey pitched seven innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts. After struggles throughout the early part of the season, it was his third win in his last four starts and his fifth quality start in his last six outings.
"Homer pitched really well. I don't know why he was struggling," said losing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. "He looked really good tonight. His stuff was impressive."
Bailey was the last starting pitcher to win for the Reds when he beat the Cardinals on Friday. In the days since, they've faced Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and had few answers.
Drawing the defending National League Cy Young Award winner in Kershaw was the latest hurdle. This time, the 23-28 Reds cleared it.
"We're kind of past that early part of the season. We're not in the early stages," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We're getting into the meat of the middle of this thing. We need to play better, and we need to secure wins. Here is a great one-run victory where we grinded it out and found a way to get a lead. The bullpen did a great job of shutting it down. It was a huge win."
While the strikeouts added up -- the lefty had nine of the Dodgers staff's 12 K's to give the Reds 60 in the last five games -- they took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Todd Frazier hit a one-out double to left field, and Brandon Phillips hit a 1-2 pitch into the left-center-field seats for a two-run homer. It gave Cincinnati its first lead since Friday's win.
Kershaw retired 14 of the next 16 batters, surviving a one-out double by Brayan Pena in the second and a leadoff single by Devin Mesoraco in the fourth.
"Brandon hitting the two-run homer was big. That was a big early lead for us," Price said. "It was important. Runs were a premium. The mist comes and the air gets heavier. Not a lot of balls are going to go over the fence in this ballpark later in the game."
Bailey did a nice job protecting his lead. He gave up a leadoff double to Dee Gordon in the first inning, but left him stranded on third base. There wasn't another runner in scoring position until the fifth, when Justin Turner led off with a double. Turner scored from third base on a passed ball by Mesoraco on a pitch to Kershaw. After two more hits, pitching coach Jeff Pico came out for a mound visit.
"He said, 'Look, I'm giving you a breather,'" Bailey said. "'Let's slow everything down. Let's see what we want to do here. Let's get out of this thing.'
"Luckily, I have plenty of experience this year pitching in jams, so it wasn't anything new. I've had a lot of guys on base this year so I'm kind of used to it."
Shortstop Zack Cozart knocked down a sharp grounder from Andre Ethier -- now 0-for-21 lifetime vs. Bailey -- to start an inning-ending double play.
"He did a tremendous job," Pena said. "Those guys have a good lineup. They have some power. He was able to keep us in the game and give us a chance."
In the top of the sixth, Frazier hit his second double and scored from third base on a Kershaw wild pitch that gave Cincinnati a 3-1 lead. Kershaw finished with three earned runs on seven hits over seven innings.
Yasiel Puig kept the game tight in the bottom half with a leadoff homer to right-center field on a 2-1 pitch. Bailey retired his final six in a row before Manny Parra took over for the bottom of the eighth.
The left-handed Parra walked his first batter, Gordon, on four pitches before an Ethier sacrifice. Former Dodgers righty Jonathan Broxton took over and got a Puig flyout to the warning track in right field that moved Gordon to third base, and Hanley Ramirez flied out routinely to right field. Aroldis Chapman worked a perfect ninth inning for his fifth save in six opportunities.
"All the credit has to go to Bailey," Pena said. "He really stepped up and pitched a great game when we needed it. He's been throwing the ball pretty good for us. This one is a big one. It's huge for us, especially [against] the pitcher we faced. He's one of the best pitchers in the big leagues."