Dodgers' loss to Reds just a blip in their inspired play
LOS ANGELES – The last time the Dodgers played a home game, they were a .500 ball club chasing a first-place team.
So much has changed.
They returned home on Thursday night with a six-game winning streak, with a renewed sense of confidence and the lead in the National League West standings.
The good feelings haven't faded, but the Dodgers were momentarily knocked off track in a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
How perfect would it have been to come home with a victory in front of a welcoming Dodger Stadium sellout crowd of 53,275 that came to collect its Vin Scully bobbleheads?
Consider it a blip. They're still in first place, and still believe they'll be there at the end.
"Before the break we were talking about getting in the race," manager Don Mattingly said. "Now we're in the race for sure, and it's going to be one. There's going to be a lot of good games as we go down the stretch here. We're trying to win every one of them.”
Strangely, starter Zack Greinke wavered just enough to lose. He came in with a 5-0 record and 2.36 ERA in his previous six starts, and he was in search of his 100th career win. But a mistake here and there kept him from his ninth victory of this season.
"My stuff was good," Greinke said. "I made a lot of good pitches. I made a couple of bad pitches and they capitalized on it."
Here's what Greinke did: He grooved one to Xavier Paul in the first inning for a home run, then gave up a two-run shot to Jay Bruce in the sixth after hitting Brandon Phillips with a pitch.
Against a team like the Reds, those mistakes can be costly – even for a pitcher who has his good stuff.
Greinke had allowed just one earned in his previous three starts combined, but as he said of the Reds, "They've got probably the toughest one through five (hitters) for a right-handed pitcher. I made a couple of mistakes."
He was still in the game, trailing only 2-1 with two outs in the sixth when he got a pitch too far inside to Phillips and hit him on the leg. Then Bruce drove a 2-and-2 curve into the pavilion in left-center, and suddenly it was 4-1.
"I don't know if that's the moment of the game or not," Mattingly said, "but the Bruce home run kind of puts us in a bind."
One thing the Dodgers have proven, however, is that they never seem to be out of a game. And so they scored a run in the eighth and -- after the Reds scored off Carlos Marmol to make it 5-2 -- brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth.
But unlike the previous two nights in Toronto, the Dodgers failed to produce a stirring comeback. Flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, who hit 102 mph on the radar gun several times in the ninth, got Carl Crawford to fly out to left field with runners on second and third. The air quickly went out of the crowd.
"We talk about always trying to get the tying run to the plate," Mattingly said. "We had a chance tonight. Obviously with an All-Star closer out there, we couldn't get it done."