LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw leads with his arm not his mouth. Yet ever since the Dodgers' ace spoke up after they lost a season-high fifth straight game last weekend, the NL West leaders have been rolling.
It couldn't come at a better time, with the second-place Giants arriving next week.
Andre Ethier singled in a pair of go-ahead runs in the seventh inning, helping the Dodgers rally past the Chicago Cubs 5-2 Saturday night for their fifth consecutive victory.
"It was a right feeling to freak out a little because you see the Giants creeping up on you," Ethier said, crediting Kershaw's rare words for creating "a sense of urgency check on everyone."
The Dodgers have their third winning streak of five or more games for the first time since May 7-12. They overcame a balk by starter Mat Latos that put the Cubs ahead in the fifth to pound out six of their 11 hits in a four-run seventh.
"We worked really hard to get to this point," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "This time of year it's about winning games."
J.P. Howell (5-1) earned the victory in relief, striking out one in one-third of an inning.
Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth to earn his 27th save in 29 chances.
The Cubs dropped their fourth in a row, their most losses since five straight from June 24-28, which included two defeats to the Dodgers. They've been outscored 9-3 in the series so far.
Chicago manager Joe Maddon called the lack of offense "epidemic" in dropping to 1-4 on the six-game West Coast trip.
"Normally, we sting the ball pretty well and tonight we didn't," he said. "It's been a tough trip. The 2,000 miles and two hours have kicked our butts a little bit. But I'm really pleased with our guys. Our guys care and they're good, so we'll be fine."
Jon Lester (8-10) gave up five runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. The left-hander struck out seven and walked none in his first road start since July 18 at Atlanta.
Lester stumbled in the seventh, giving up four consecutive hits to start the inning, including Jose Peraza's first major league RBI that tied the game 2-all. Peraza was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday for his second stint with the Dodgers.
Lester served up Ethier's RBI double that gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Ethier had entered as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning. Los Angeles added a run on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI single after batting around in the inning.
"Balls are finding holes right now," Lester said. "You give up two infield hits, then Ethier sneaks one through, and you get a couple of balls that fall in front of outfielders. The good thing is I don't have to go back to the drawing board because my stuff was there."
Russell put the Cubs ahead 2-1 on Latos' balk after the pitcher took a step toward first base and didn't throw. Manager Don Mattingly vehemently protested the call for several minutes to no avail. Latos walked his next batter and promptly got yanked after 86 pitches.
Latos gave up two runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings of his first start since Aug. 13, when he allowed five runs — four earned — and seven hits in the same amount of innings against Cincinnati. It was his fifth career balk. He had a wild pitch in the second.
"It was pretty tough not throwing for seven, eight days," he said, "especially against a team like that. I didn't really have my 'A' game."
Los Angeles tied the game 1-all in the third on Kike Hernandez's infield single.
The Cubs led 1-0 in the second on Russell's sacrifice fly to foul territory in left field.
TOPPING 3 MILLION
The Dodgers became the first team in the majors to surpass 3,000,000 in attendance this season with a crowd of 51,697. It's the 19th time in the last 20 years the team has topped that mark.
NOT SO GRIMM
Justin Grimm tossed a scoreless inning of relief in the seventh for the Cubs, extending his scoreless streak to 15.0 consecutive innings, a season-best for the team's bullpen.
Cubs: RH Jake Arrieta (16-6, 2.22 ERA) makes his team-leading 27th start of the season. He's the first Cubs pitcher since Steve Trachsel in 1994 to win eight consecutive road decisions. He is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts last season against the Dodgers.
Dodgers: LH Alex Wood (9-8, 3.70) is 2-2 in five starts since joining the team. He is limiting left-handed hitters to a .148 average and has allowed just 10 homers this season in 148 1/3 innings.