The reason the Dodgers went from nine victories over a recent 11-game stretch to being swept by the Angels at Dodger Stadium was obvious.
But Manager Joe Torre had trouble pointing the finger of blame.
"Our two starters, they're two kids," Torre said. "I can't say I'm disappointed, because it's their first time doing this. I certainly don't want to put the onus of responsibility on their shoulders because that's not the right thing to do."
A day after fan favorite John Ely dropped his second consecutive decision, the clock might have struck midnight on fellow rookie right-hander Carlos Monasterios, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings in a 6-5 defeat that sealed the Angels' first sweep at Dodger Stadium.
Neither team moved in the standings, as the Dodgers remained a game behind first-place San Diego in the National League West and the Angels one-half game behind division-leading Texas in the American League West.
But the teams appeared to be headed in opposite directions, in part because of their upcoming schedules.
While the Angels will play host to Milwaukee and visit the Chicago Cubs this week, the Dodgers will embark on a nine-game trip that begins Tuesday in Cincinnati, takes them to Boston starting Friday and ends with a three-game set in Anaheim.
Torre called Tuesday an important day for the Dodgers, but not because they will open their three-game series against the first-place Reds. That's the day Torre will talk to opening-day starter Vicente Padilla, who is tentatively scheduled to return from the disabled list Saturday in Boston.
That the Dodgers are so eagerly anticipating Padilla's comeback says something.
When Padilla was put on the 15-day disabled list on April 25 because of nerve problems in his throwing arm, he had a 6.65 earned-run average in four starts. He made what was expected to be the final start of his minor league rehabilitation assignment Sunday, but about the only positive sign was that he was healthy enough to pitch 5 2/3 innings. Pitching for triple-A Albuquerque in Oklahoma City, Padilla was pounded for six runs (four earned) and eight hits, including two home runs.
But Padilla might be the only significant addition the Dodgers make to their rotation, as they haven't made any progress to acquire Cliff Lee from Seattle and are balking at the $25-million-plus price tag that would accompany a trade for Roy Oswalt of Houston.
Padilla probably will take Monasterios' place in the rotation, of which Monasterios said he is aware.
Like Ely the previous night, Monasterios was betrayed by his command.
"It was a bad day," Monasterios said. "Many of my pitches were high in the zone."
Run-scoring singles by Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui put the Angels ahead, 2-0, in the first inning. A home run by Torii Hunter increased the lead to 3-1. Consecutive doubles later in the inning by Matsui and Howie Kendrick resulted in a fourth run for the Angels, and Monasterios was done.
But the day wasn't completely lost, as Torre pointed to how the bullpen held the Angels to two runs over the final 6 1/3 innings and the late outburst of an offense that had scored only eight runs in the previous four games.
The Dodgers scored two runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to get to within a run, an eighth-inning home run by Angels catcher Mike Napoli winding up the difference.
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