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Dodgers finally score, but not quite enough

L.A. loses fifth in a row, 3-2 to the Mets, and ninth out of 10 to fall to second in West behind Giants

June 28, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

Santa Claus doesn't exist. The purported Bigfoot who was captured on film in 1967 was actually a man in an ape suit. And if Friedrich Nietzsche is to believed, God is dead.

Something else: The Dodgers aren't a first-place team.

Not anymore. Not after their 3-2 defeat by the New York Mets on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, their ninth loss in 10 games.

But before the Dodgers were replaced by the San Francisco Giants atop the National League West, the so-called "wonder team" had one final miracle to perform.

It scored.

Its pair of fourth-inning runs ended its scoreless streak at 33 innings, the fifth-longest in franchise history.

"It felt good to score a couple of runs, to be honest with you," Manager Don Mattingly said.

If that doesn't seem like a miracle, consider who was and wasn't in the lineup.

Though it appears a rib cage injury won't force Andre Ethier onto the disabled list, the All-Star right fielder wasn't ready to play. Matt Kemp was also in the dugout, recovering from a strained left hamstring. Second baseman Mark Ellis was still two days away from starting a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

"That's what really hurts," Mattingly said.

James Loney, who entered the game in an 0-for-18 drought and couldn't break into the lineup in the three previous games, was batting cleanup. Scott Van Slyke, called up from triple A earlier in the day to replace demoted utilitymanIvan De Jesus Jr., was hitting fifth.

Mattingly insisted he didn't assemble his lineup by picking names out of a hat.

Loney and Van Slyke both were 0 for 4.

The Dodgers failed to get a man on base against Mets starter Chris Young in the first three innings, but shortstop Dee Gordon led off the fourth inning with a double to center field. Gordon scored on a triple by Elian Herrera, who was hitless in his previous 20 at-bats.

The moment was celebrated with a standing ovation by the home crowd. The players were also excited.

"We were pumped up," pitcher Chris Capuano said. "We were jumping around."

One at-bat later, Juan Rivera singled to center to drive in Herrera, tying the score, 2-2.

But Capuano (9-3) couldn't hold the stalemate.

Facing the team he pitched for last season, Capuano served up a fifth-inning double to Andres Torres that drove in Mike Nickeas to put the Mets back ahead, 3-2. The Dodgers never threatened again.

Meanwhile, the Giants were on their way to beating the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, to move a game in front of the Dodgers.

The Dodgers, who led the Giants by 41/2 games as recently as June 20, have lost their last five games. The last time the Dodgers weren't in first place, the season was only five days old.

Mattingly downplayed the change in the standings.

"We can't really be concerned about anybody else when we're in a rut," he said.

For the manager of a free-falling team, Mattingly sounded upbeat before the game. The results of Ethier's MRI exam, coupled with the Kemp and Ellis' improvements in health, were the primary sources of his optimism.

On what the medical staff told him about Ethier, Mattingly said, "It's really good news."

Ethier left the Dodgers' loss in San Francisco the previous day when he injured his left rib cage muscle checking his swing and recoiling his bat. Tests showed the muscle was strained, but not to the point where he had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Ethier is listed as day to day.

Ethier was visibly relieved.

"I've been on the DL the last couple of years and it's not a good feeling," Ethier said. "There's nothing more I would want to have than a full, healthy season."

Ethier received treatment and stretched with his teammates but didn't participate in hitting or fielding drills. He said he probably would follow the same routine for another day.

Hitters who strain rib cage muscles often strain the muscles facing the pitcher when they hit. Such players often take about a month to return from the disabled list.

What makes Ethier's case unique is that he strained a muscle on the opposite side.

Still, if Ethier's condition doesn't improve soon, he could land on the disabled list.

"Obviously, we're in a league where you can't just sit here for 10 days," Mattingly said. "If it got to something like that, I'm sure we'd talk about something different."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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