LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds twice this week and had Clayton Kershaw on the mound Wednesday night. That’s as close to a guaranteed sweep as a team can get.
Except that Kershaw wasn’t Kershaw. He was close, but a rough first inning put him in a hole, and the Dodgers couldn’t come back.
No one’s complaining, though. Despite a 3-2 loss to the Reds at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers have still won six of nine, and the feeling is that they’re doing enough things right to feel good about where they’re headed.
"I don’t think we’re at a point where we want to live with any loss," manager Don Mattingly said, "but I do feel like these are the kinds of games we’re going to win our share of."
Right now, the Dodgers are in a mix-and-match mode. Left fielder Carl Crawford, catcher A.J. Ellis and third baseman Juan Uribe are all on the disabled list, and Matt Kemp — disgruntled over being benched five consecutive games — made his first start in left field since 2006.
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But they’re enduring.
"We’re not at full speed, and we’re missing, at this point, three starters," Mattingly said. "We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re good enough and we’re playing pretty well."
They also got three exceptional pitching performances over the previous three days: a no-hitter from Josh Beckett, a near-perfect game from Hyun-Jin Ryu and a typically superb start from Zack Greinke. They figured Kershaw was a lock.
So what happened? He gave up a one-out double down the line to Todd Frazier and a home run to Brandon Phillips. The Dodgers were fighting to come back the rest of the night.
"I didn’t have great fastball command early on," Kershaw said. "Actually, the whole night I was struggling to get the ball where I wanted to, my fastball.
We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re good enough and we’re playing pretty well.
-- Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly
"I let a lot of leadoff guys get on base, a lot of leadoff hits. That’s a tough way to pitch — stressful innings the whole night."
As for Kemp, he had several balls hit in his direction but had an otherwise uneventful night. He fielded Frazier’s double in the first inning cleanly and played a ball over his head, again by Frazier, well when he bounced against the wall in the sixth.
"I thought Matt looked good," Mattingly said. "I haven’t looked at any video, but I thought he looked fine out there."
Kemp was unhappy over losing his starting job in center field to Andre Ethier, but now he’ll have plenty of opportunities to play regularly. Crawford, who suffered a sprained left ankle running down a fly ball Tuesday night, is on the 15-day disabled list.