Dodgers succumb to the inevitable
L.A. flirted with victory followed by the predictable collapse against the Angels
ANAHEIM -- It was inevitable, of course.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were never going to beat the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, and they didn't. It didn't matter how well Clayton Kershaw was pitching, how many outstanding defensive plays were made behind him, how many big hits the Dodgers' struggling lineup managed to scratch out in the early innings. Eventually, it was all going to collapse like a house of cards, if for no other reason than that it simply had to.
The Dodgers, after all, don't beat American League teams in American League ballparks. And they certainly don't beat the Angels at Angel Stadium, or anywhere else for that matter.
The all-too-predictable result for the Dodgers was another mind-numbing loss, this time 6-3 before 41,595, driving home the point yet again that the old-money team from Chavez Ravine is no longer much of a match for the upstarts and onetime underdogs from down the freeway.
The Dodgers fell to a palindromic 14-41 in interleague road games over the past seven seasons, to 13-25 all-time in the Angels' yard and to 2-8 against AL teams this season.
This one was unusually tantalizing, as the Dodgers jumped to an early 3-0 lead while Kershaw was appearing unhittable. He gave up a leadoff single to Howie Kendrick in the first inning, then retired the next nine batters in a row, all as the Dodgers were getting RBI singles from the slumping Andre Ethier and the not-so-slumping James Loney in the third and Matt Kemp's first home run in three weeks in the fourth. But although he would get out of it with a double-play grounder, Kershaw showed a portent of things to come in the bottom of the fourth, walking the first two batters. When Kershaw began the sixth by again walking the leadoff man -- that would be the .171-hitting Brandon Wood -- it finally caught up to him, and the Angels caught up to the Dodgers.
There was a single; a fly ball out to the track; and, finally, the blast anyone who has watched these two teams play against each other over the years had to know was going to come sooner or later. Bobby Abreu drove a 2-1 pitch from Kershaw over the center-field wall for a three-run homer.
"I thought [Kershaw] was throwing the ball about as good as he has ever thrown it," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "It was just that Abreu put a nice swing on a fastball. There aren't many lefties who can hit that pitch, but he did." Of course he did.
The shot only tied the game, but it effectively tied the Dodgers (38-32) up in knots. At that point, their season high-tying fifth consecutive defeat was a foregone conclusion. And with five more interleague games on tap this week, including two more here, well, maybe the foregone conclusions don't end there.
"Again, it's all about how we come back from it," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of the damage caused by Abreu's home run. "The back-to-back three-run innings are what got us."
Indeed, the Angels scored three more off Kershaw (7-4) and reliever Ronald Belisario in the seventh, and that was pretty much that. The third-place Dodgers fell three games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres in the National League West, their largest deficit since May 15, and they are now just a game ahead of the fourth-place Colorado Rockies.
Kershaw, meanwhile, wound up with his worst pitching line -- 6 2/3 innings, five earned runs, six hits -- since that nightmarish performance against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 4 in which he was torched for seven runs and gone by the second inning. He used that nadir as a springboard, beating Colorado's unbeatable Ubaldo Jimenez in his next start and going 6-1 with a 1.82 ERA over his next eight starts leading up to this one.
And the worst part about this one is that it started out so well.
"This one hurts," Kershaw said. "We had a lead. I've got to make that hold up. This one was my fault."
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Ethier showed long-awaited signs of life.
In the first inning, he lit into a pitch from Ervin Santana (7-5) and drove it to the warning track in right field. Although Abreu camped under it and hauled it in, giving the visibly frustrated Ethier an 18th consecutive hitless at-bat, it was a well-hit ball that might have carried out of the park if Ethier hadn't gotten a tad too much loft under it.
Then in the third, Ethier went the other way, poking a single through the left side, ending his drought and driving in Carroll from third with the game's first run. Ethier followed that with a leadoff double in the fifth, although his teammates were never able to advance him.
Ethier finished 2 for 5, raising his season average to .320 and his average since returning from the disabled list on May 31 from .197 to .210 (17 for 81).
Lost in the shuffle
Angels catcher and sometimes first baseman Mike Napoli, who was playing first base in this one, went hitless in three at-bats. But he would have had two hits if not for a pair of outstanding defensive plays by the Dodgers' middle infielders.
First, in the bottom of the second, Napoli hit a smoking line drive toward right field, but second baseman Blake DeWitt went into an all-out dive to spear it on one hop, then got up and threw out Napoli at first. Then, in the fifth, Napoli yanked another smash toward left field, but shortstop Jamey Carroll lunged to his right and snagged it, planted and threw across his body to get Napoli.
After falling behind 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers came right back, getting the first two batters on in the eighth against Fernando Rodney. Kemp, who had homered earlier, then drove a smash up the middle toward center field. But Wood made a diving stop behind the bag to cut it off and shoveled it to second baseman Howie Kendrick, who fired to first to complete the double play. Blake DeWitt then hit a looping liner to center, but nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter ran it down.
Rookie right-hander John Ely (3-4, 4.15) will attempt to right himself after struggling over his past three outings, allowing 15 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings. He will be opposed by Angels right-hander Joel Pineiro (6-6, 4.45), who has allowed two runs on eight hits over 17 innings in his past two starts, including a complete-game, five-hitter against the Dodgers on June 11 at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is back in town after attending his father's funeral in the Dominican Republic, will rejoin the team for Wednesday night's game. However, Torre said he plans to wait until he talks to Furcal before deciding whether Furcal will return to the lineup or wait another day. Presumably, if Furcal doesn't start, he will remain on the bereavement list until Thursday.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.