San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence went 2 for 4 and drove in all four… (Jason O. Watson / Getty Images )
SAN FRANCISCO — As road trips go, this one looked like a disaster.
The Dodgers were swept by their rivals, the first-place San Francisco Giants. They lost their power-hitting shortstop to an injury that will cost him weeks, not days. They flew home just half a game ahead of the last-place San Diego Padres.
And yet, according to some of the voices in the visiting clubhouse after a 4-3 loss Sunday, the sweep marked a turning point in the Dodgers' season.
BOX SCORE: San Francisco 4, Dodgers 3
In a good way.
"It's really hard to start talking about moral victories after a sweep," catcher A.J. Ellis said, "but we felt like a ballclub the last two nights — a winning ballclub."
Hunter Pence drove in all four runs for the Giants. Matt Cain, who took a shutout into the eighth inning, won his first game in seven starts this season. Cain has given up one run in 131/3 innings against the Dodgers this year, 26 runs in 282/3 innings against all other comers.
The Dodgers rallied for three runs in the eighth inning, two on a pinch-hit single by Adrian Gonzalez, and they hit some line drives against San Francisco closer Sergio Romo in the ninth inning.
"I really would like to sit here like I was all disappointed," Manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm not at all disappointed with the way we played."
That prompted one reporter to point out the Dodgers were two for 12 with runners in scoring position.
"Did you watch the game? Seriously? We were fine," Mattingly said. "I'll take those at-bats all day, every day. ... I can't be disappointed with the result. At some point, you ask guys to win battles, to win your at-bats. You can't control where it goes.
"We got runs late. We kept coming. I really can't sit here and be disappointed with anything but the loss."
Mattingly was not done.
"I feel better about our club walking out of here than I did walking in," he said.
Walking out after a sweep?
"I didn't think we were playing good [coming in]," he said. "I thought we played tough the whole series."
The Dodgers were not routed, not by any means. They lost by one run in all three games, by walk-off home runs Friday and Saturday.
They also had a hitters-only meeting Saturday, after which they produced season highs in runs and hits.
"We didn't roll over," Ellis said. "We kept fighting back. That's the kind of intensity and fire we need to take into every game. …
"There was a different energy on the bench. In the past, when we've fallen behind, it's almost as if the game has been over."
Matt Kemp, whose double was his first extra-base hit in 36 at-bats, did not care to entertain what went right in the series.
"This series is over with," he said. "We have to move on. Who do we play next?"
That would be the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kemp wanted to look ahead to them, not look back at a comeback that fell short.
"It shows we've got fight," he said, "but any loss is a bad loss. You don't want to lose games. We've got to play better."