CINCINNATI -- Matt Kemp's two-out single with the bases loaded in the 10th inning sent the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory Friday night that denied the Cincinnati Reds on their first chance to clinch the NL Central.
The Dodgers won for only the fifth time in 15 games and moved two games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card. They also trail Milwaukee by a half-game in the wild-card race.
Cincinnati was trying to lock up its second division title in three years without manager Dusty Baker, still in a Chicago hospital. The 63-year-old Baker was hospitalized on Wednesday with an irregular heartbeat.
The Dodgers loaded the bases in the 10th off Sam LeCure (3-3), who hit Elian Herrera to open the inning. First baseman Joey Votto tried for a forceout on A.J. Ellis' sacrifice, but skipped his throw and both runners were safe. After Nick Punto's bunt, Mark Ellis walked to load the bases.
Sean Marshall fanned Andre Ethier and got ahead 0-2 in the count to Kemp, who singled to right for his third hit of the game.
Ronald Belisario (8-1) pitched two perfect innings, fanning five. Brandon League worked the 10th for his fourth save in four opportunities.
The Reds will get two more chances to clinch on Saturday. The Cardinals play in Chicago at 1:05 p.m. EDT, where a loss would give the title to the Reds about the time their 4 p.m. game against the Dodgers was starting.
Just like in 2010, when they clinched on Jay Bruce's leadoff homer in the ninth inning off Houston's Tim Byrdak for a 3-2 victory, the Reds had a chance at another last-swing celebration. Bruce struck out swinging to open the ninth this time.
Cincinnati got its first opportunity to win the NL Central after the Cubs rallied to beat the Cardinals 5-4 in 11 innings earlier Friday at Wrigley Field. That game was shown on the videoboard during batting practice and drew cheers from early arriving fans.
It was a favorable ending as well for the Dodgers, who knew they had a chance to gain ground in the wild-card race.
For Cincinnati, it was time to start preparing for a party that's on hold for at least one more day.
Neither team got much going on offense, which was nothing new to Los Angeles. The Dodgers scored two or fewer runs in seven of their previous 10 games.
Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo gave up six hits in eight innings, including a run that scored on Juan Rivera's groundout in the second. Arroyo tied it with an RBI single in the fifth off Joe Blanton.
The crowd of 35,397 kept waiting for that one finishing hit that never came.
NOTES: Dodgers LHP Ted Lilly had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. He's expected to start throwing again in six to eight weeks. ... Reds LF Ryan Ludwick was out of the lineup for a second straight game with a sore groin. ... Reds SS Zack Cozart was back after missing 14 games with strained muscles in his left side.