LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' offense was silenced by a Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher for the second evening in a row, the Dodgers falling 2-1 before 51,137 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. This time, though, it may have stung a little more.
This time, the Dodgers didn't have the excuse of a depleted lineup, Matt Kemp having been activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day. And this time, the pitcher silencing the Dodgers was a rookie named Michael Fiers making his first major league start -- he did make two relief appearances last year.
Fiers held the Dodgers to a run on five hits over seven dominating innings, using just 89 pitches. The Dodgers' only run came in the sixth, when Ivan De Jesus and Andre Ethier doubled, but Ethier wound up stranded when Jerry Hairston grounded to short to end the inning.
The Dodgers (32-17) are once again in danger of their first three-game losing streak of the season. Clayton Kershaw, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, will take the mound against the Brewers on Wednesday night, but he will be opposed by right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who also garnered numerous Cy Young votes last season.
Welcome back. Kemp's return from the disabled list was a welcome sight for the Dodgers. So far, though, that is all it was. Kemp went hitless in his first three at-bats, including a strikeout and a tapper in front of the plate. Kemp later led off the ninth with a beautiful, nine-pitch at-bat against Brewers closer John Axford before doubling off the wall, but Kemp wound up stranded on third when James Loney grounded to short to end the game.
Settling in. After giving up a one-out, two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the first inning, Dodgers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who was making his first start of the season after being recalled from Double-A Chattanooga before the game, retired 18-of-21 batters the rest of the way before being lifted after seven. That included one stretch of 12 batters in a row. Braun would be the last Brewers runner to get past first base against Eovaldi.
Glove work. Loney made another of his increasingly frequent, spectacular plays, this time diving to his left to take extra bases away from Nyjer Morgan leading off the ninth. Alas, on the very next play, Loney committed what initially was called an error, allowing a hard smash by Braun to get through him, but the official scorer soon changed his mind and credited Braun with a single. Braun wound up stranded on third base at the end of the inning, so no harm, no foul.
Boo this. Greeted once again by the loud catcalls that have showered him every time he has stepped into the batter's box in this series, Braun shrugged it all off in the first inning and slammed a two-run homer into the right field bullpen against Eovaldi, putting the Dodgers into an immediate, 2-0 hole. The boos, by the way, only got louder as Braun circled the bases.
Leather-seeking missiles. While being held to one hit through the first four innings by Fiers, the Dodgers hit several balls hard enough to do damage, but each time, that ball wound up in someone's glove. Following Ethier's leadoff single in the second, Loney hit a shot to the wall in right that Corey Hart had to reach for while backtracking. In the third, Eovaldi hit what looked like a flared single to right, but Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks caught up with it and hauled it in. And in the fourth, Kemp hit what was sure to be his first home run since coming off the disabled list, right up until it died on the track and was caught by Hart.
Lonely at the top. As valuable as Tony Gwynn has been to the Dodgers this season, especially during the absence of Kemp, he hasn't been especially good when hitting in the leadoff spot. Gwynn's overall average of .287 coming into the game was 33 points higher than the .254 he sported as a leadoff man, and his on-base percentage in the top spot was .290. With Kemp back in the lineup, Gwynn moved from center to left but remained in the leadoff slot, going 0-for-4 with three popups, one of them on a bunt, and a harmless groundout.