Last year, the loss was bitter. This year, it feels just like another day among hobos and drifters.
It was more surprising to see the Dodgers build their 5-0 first-inning lead than lose it. Matt Kemp drove in Casey Blake with the first of four hits, moving Andre Ethier to second base and setting up Juan Rivera’s three-run home run, only the Dodgers’ fifth three-run homer of 2011.
And the team wasn’t done, with Dioner Navarro doubling in James Loney. Navarro was thrown out at third base, however, robbing the team of an additional run when Jamey Carroll then tripled.
And go figure, it mattered.
Chad Billingsley’s day got off to an unusual start thanks to a 15-pitch duel with Jimmy Rollins — if a leadoff hitter for either team in a Dodger game has had a longer at-bat, I don’t remember it. Billingsley escaped that and the next two innings unscathed, but the fourth brought a leadoff walk to Ryan Howard, a two-run homer from Hunter Pence and an unearned run thanks to a Loney error.
In the fifth, a Casey Blake error contributed to two more unearned runs, Billingsley exiting after 99 pitches and zero strikeouts (for the fourth time in his career) with the lead reduced to 6-5. The struggling Hong-Chih Kuo got the Dodgers out of that inning, and the Dodgers even extended their lead to two runs on an RBI double from Loney.
But then the invisible roof that has hovered over the Dodgers all season long did its very visible cave-in, with a Howard homer capping a four-run top of the sixth.
The outcome of today’s game ties into what I wrote Tuesday night: It’s not the margin of defeat for the Dodgers so much as the general reliability of it.
Silver linings are harder and harder to come by: Ethier can no longer even claim the longest hitting streak in the majors this year, now that Dan Uggla has reached 31. We did have Kemp’s 30th stolen base and a day at the plate that moved him within .016 of the National League lead.
And perhaps Dee Gordon’s move to the disabled list should be considered a silver lining of sorts, given that the alternative would be him continuing to aggravate his right-shoulder injury with his all-out style of play.