CINCINNATI — Apparently, winning isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes it's better to lose.
At least that was Clayton Kershaw's theory after the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers on Sunday, winning the final game, 3-2, on Ryan Hanigan's walk-off double with one out in the ninth inning.
It was the Dodgers' second walk-off loss in as many days, their fourth loss in as many games and their fifth consecutive loss against a team with a winning record. And while some saw that as a black cloud, Kershaw was focused on the silver lining.
BOX SCORE: Cincinnati 3, Dodgers 2
"Overall it's probably a good time to lose some games, if we're going to end up losing, so we can kind of remember what that feels like," said Kershaw, who gave up only four hits in seven innings, two of them home runs by Jay Bruce.
That view was seconded by the guy dressing in the locker next to Kershaw.
"Absolutely," agreed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. "You roll into the playoffs and you're just winning, winning, winning, winning. And you don't have to grind through it at the end and play some tough games, sometimes that's not a good thing.
"We have to keep our edge up. We have to keep pushing."
Scoring wouldn't hurt either, especially with the Dodgers averaging only two runs in their last six games against likely playoff teams from Boston and Cincinnati.
"They all seem to be the same game," Manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a matter of getting the key hit or getting the key pitch. These are the kind of games that you expect."
In the early going Sunday, most of those key pitches were made by Reds starter Homer Bailey, who retired the first 11 Dodgers in order, seven by strikeout. Gonzalez broke the spell with a two-out single in the fourth, then came around to score on a Hanley Ramirez double.
That equaled Bruce's second-inning home run on a 1-and-0 slider, the first home run Kershaw has given up to a left-handed hitter this season. Bruce hit another in the fourth inning on the same pitch, putting the Reds back in front.
"I thought I could throw a strike slider to him. And obviously I was stubborn the second time," said Kershaw, who made it past the sixth inning for the first time in three starts. "He ran into one the first time. But he proved that he's really locked in right now."
Ramirez's 17th home run this season and second of the series, in the seventh inning again, evened the score, but the tie lasted less than two innings, with Ronald Belisario (5-7) coming out of the bullpen to give up a single to Zack Cozart and Hanigan's game-winning double into the left-field corner.
And when Cozart slid across the plate, it marked the first time the Dodgers had lost four consecutive games since the first week of May.
But there's a silver lining there, too.
"We won six in a row before this," Gonzalez said. "So last 10 games we're 6-4."