The Los Angeles Dodgers’ leadoff batters reached base twice in three games. The National League’s top team managed all of eight hits in being swept by the Oakland Athletics.
Manager Don Mattingly knows that’s far from enough for his team to keep up its push for a playoff spot.
Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning for his first career game-ending shot, lifting the A’s to a 4-1 victory over Dodgers on Thursday to complete their first home sweep of 2012.
”We didn’t do enough in any of these games to win any of them,” Mattingly said. ”We didn’t really have guys in scoring position and you can’t expect to win when you don’t get guys on base. We’re not good enough to not execute.”
These Dodgers (42-28) sure didn’t look like the team with the NL’s best record and second best in baseball behind the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers.
Their next trip to the Bay Area starting Monday will be against the division’s second-place club: the rival San Francisco Giants.
Cespedes connected with no outs off Josh Lindblom (2-1), sending a drive just inside the left-field foul pole. This marked just his second game back in the starting lineup after he had just one at-bat the previous 10 games because of the hamstring injury.
”I knew it was in fair territory, but I didn’t know it would be a home run,” Cespedes said through a translator. ”I’m very happy. My teammates said, `You always do so much, you’ve hit key home runs to put us ahead, but you still need a walkoff.”’
Oakland won for the eighth time in nine games after stymying the Dodgers.
Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon is in a 0-for-12 streak and Andre Ethier is batting .171 in June, while Juan Uribe is hitting just .088 (3 of 34) away from Dodger Stadium.
Starters Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Travis Blackley each excelled. They both allowed one run on just three hits in eight innings. Blackley walked none and struck out six while the NL Cy Young winner fanned seven and walked two.
”It’s fun to win, it’s fun to pitch well,” Kershaw said. ”When you’re not winning, or not pitching up to expectations there’s a little frustration. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to keep the team in the game.”
Coco Crisp drew a leadoff walk from Lindblom in the ninth and advanced on a wild pitch. Crisp moved to third on Jemile Weeks’ infield single on which Lindblom fielded the ball and looked to third and then first but didn’t make a throw.
”In that situation they had the momentum on their side,” Lindblom said. ”Coming in at the start of an inning and walking the leadoff guy is unacceptable, especially in a tie game.”
Cespedes then hit his seventh home run of the season and the A’s won their sixth in a row at home in the series with L.A. The Dodgers don’t have a victory here since 2001 and are 2-12 overall at the Oakland Coliseum since 1997.
Ryan Cook (2-1) relieved Blackley in the ninth. Ninth-place batter Matt Treanor drew a walk, Gordon bunted into a forceout on which third baseman Brandon Inge fired to second and then the Dodgers speedster was caught stealing on an outstanding throw by new A’s catcher Derek Norris in his major league debut.
Even Inge’s teammates doubted he could make the play at second.
”Yeah, it’s a tough play,” Inge said. ”Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out. Kind of a risky play.”
The Dodgers were swept for just the second time this season. They dropped four in a row to Milwaukee at home in late May.
Inge had a sacrifice fly in the second as Oakland took an early lead, then Juan Rivera hit a tying RBI single in the fourth. That was all the Dodgers could muster for Kershaw, who is pitching with plantar fasciitis in his left foot but growing tired of inquiries about it.
”I hope I don’t have to answer that question again,” he said. ”I battle to run but pitching is good.”
Blackley retired the first 10 Dodgers before Elian Herrera’s one-out double in the fourth.
Blackley faced only one three-ball count all afternoon, and this was his deepest outing. The Australian left-hander made his fifth start since being claimed off waivers from the Giants on May 15.
Crisp’s franchise record streak of 36 successful steals ended when he was thrown out at second in the first inning.
NOTES: Kershaw doesn’t have a decision in two career starts against the A’s despite a 0.66 ERA. … RHP Chad Billingsley (4-5) pitches for the Dodgers in the Freeway Series at Anaheim on Friday night against Angels RHP Dan Haren (4-7).