Injuries mount for slumping Dodgers
SEP 15, 2013 6:58p ET
But now the Dodgers are taking their champagne – and their myriad of health concerns – on the road.
For a second day in a row, their magic number stalled at four. But at the moment, it seems less important than the injuries that are running rampant in the clubhouse.
After losing three in a row to the San Francisco Giants – and eight of their past 11 overall – the Dodgers are suddenly in a holding pattern. Sunday's 4-3 defeat to the Giants made the National League West title appear so close, yet so far away.
"We had trouble at the start of the year and then we were hotter than anybody in baseball for a while," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "That's just the way baseball goes. We got bit by the injury bug, and we're trying to get everybody back healthy. We'll right this ship."
If they do, it will have to be in Arizona, where the second-place Diamondbacks are still mathematically in contention. The Dodgers can wrap up the division by Tuesday, but they're unlikely to be at full strength.
And that's the major concern.
Outfielder Yasiel Puig has an injured left hip that could keep him out for up to two weeks, but he pinch hit in the ninth inning and grounded into a fielder's choice that ended the game.
"I was ready like every other player on the team," Puig said through a translator. "They came to me to hit and I was ready. Sadly it didn't turn out how I wanted it to."
The Dodgers said Puig is day to day, and Puig said he hopes to play at some point during the four-game Diamondbacks series. His absence left the Dodgers woefully short in the outfield against a Giants team that hit seven home runs in the series.
Two other outfielders, Carl Crawford (back) and Andre Ethier (ankle), are improving and are likely to play in the next day or two, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez (irritated nerve in his back) will probably join them. Mattingly said Ramirez is pressing him to return soon.
It's even possible that center fielder Matt Kemp, who is rehabbing a strained hamstring injury in Arizona, will also be back, perhaps as soon as Monday.
Injuries are what derailed the Dodgers early in the season when they fell 12 games below .500, and they're slowing the team's march to the division title this month.
"Right now we're just trying to win games, honestly," Mattingly said. "We know this time of year is tough to win. It's like anything else. We had a bunch of guys out early in the year and we had trouble winning games."
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence didn't make it any easier. He homered for the fifth time in the series and finished with 12 RBI, the most in a series against the Dodgers since St. Louis' Ripper Collins had 13 in a five-game series in 1935.
Pence has 19 RBI in his past six games, the most for a six-game period since RBI became a statistic in 1920.
"Hunter gave us plenty of trouble in this series," Mattingly said.
But now the Dodgers must move on. Two wins in Arizona will sew up the division and allow them to rest players, set up their pitching rotation and prepare for a postseason run.
It's hardly impossible, even if it seems so now.
"We've got a tough Arizona team that wants nothing more than to not let us clinch at their place," Ellis said. "We've got to win two games there to get it done. That's our mission."