Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon can't reach a ball hit for a double by… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
For all the drama of the last week, the Dodgers did not witness this: Andre Ethier, as the cleanup batter, removed for a pinch-hitter.
That would have happened Sunday had the St. Louis Cardinals brought in a particular reliever at a particular time. What did happen — another loss, this one even with Clayton Kershaw on the mound — illustrates how fluid life is in Dodgertown these days, for the team and for Manager Don Mattingly.
The Dodgers' 5-3 loss to St. Louis dropped them deeper into last place in the National League West. They desperately need a serious winning streak, but they have not won three consecutive games since the first week of the season. And here come the Angels, winners of eight consecutive games.
BOX SCORE: St. Louis 5, Dodgers 3
The Dodgers have played 19 games in which they have trailed after seven innings. They have lost them all. What does that say about the team?
"That we're due," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's going to turn around pretty soon."
It had better, for Mattingly was not granted an indefinite reprieve by management last week. Mattingly challenged his team publicly and privately, and that's a start, but results had better follow.
"There's definitely a different feeling in this place," Ellis said. "I just feel Donnie's comments, the way he has addressed us, the way he has addressed the team, the way he has addressed the situation, there's a little bit more of a fire."
For all the fire, the Dodgers still struggle to deliver the big hit. Adrian Gonzalez drove in all three runs Sunday and has driven in 36 runs this season, more than twice as many as any of his teammates.
Gonzalez is batting .439 with runners in scoring position. Ethier and Matt Kemp each has had more at-bats with runners in scoring position, but Ethier is batting .182 and Kemp .167 in that situation.
In the sixth inning, the Dodgers had the bases loaded and one out. Mattingly let Kershaw hit, wanting to keep his best pitcher in the game. Kershaw has struck out three times in 26 at-bats, so Mattingly figured Kershaw would put the ball in play, at least.
Kershaw did. He grounded into a double play.
In the seventh, after Carl Crawford led off with a double, Mattingly had Mark Ellis drop a sacrifice bunt, wanting to set up Gonzalez and Ethier to drive in a run from third base.
Mattingly warned Ethier that the Cardinals might walk Gonzalez intentionally, which they did.
"He said, 'It's on you right here,' " Ethier said.
Kemp did not start, and Mattingly said after the game he would have replaced Ethier with Kemp had the Cardinals summoned a left-handed reliever.
However, they went to right-handed reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who hit Ethier with a pitch to load the bases, then struck out A.J. Ellis and Skip Schumaker to end the inning.
Kemp did pinch-hit in the eighth inning. He grounded into a double play for the eighth time this season; no teammate has grounded into more than four.
Kershaw gave up more than three earned runs for the first time in 23 starts. His line: four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
"Better than going five and giving up three," he said.
He gave up the fourth and tiebreaking run on a double that went off the glove of shortstop Dee Gordon and a line single off the glove of first baseman Gonzalez.
"Typical Clayton," Mattingly said. "If he's not at his absolute best, it's still pretty good."