LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' maddening inability to beat the crosstown Los Angeles Angels continued on Monday night, Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen giving up a two-out, RBI single to Albert Pujols in the top of the ninth to stick the Dodgers with a 3-2 loss before 50,559 at Dodger Stadium.
The hit came with Mike Trout on second and first base empty, leading to the question of whether Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would have been better off ordering an intentional walk to Pujols with Mark Trumbo on deck. But Trumbo began the night hitting 70 points better than Pujols, so Mattingly rolled the dice and lost.
The Dodgers (39-23) lost to the Angels for the 16th time in 22 meetings dating back to the 2005 season. In losing for just the second time in their past eight games overall, the Dodgers saw their lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West shrink to 4 1/2 games.
Turn on a dime. The Dodgers appeared to be in immediate trouble against their longtime nemeses, the Angels loading the bases with one out in the top of the first. But immediately after Chris Capuano issued a five-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick went after the first pitch, grounding into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers then scored twice in the bottom half to grab an early lead, the big blow a bloop double by Elian Herrera over the head of drawn-in third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
Waking up. Dee Gordon, the Dodgers' embattled leadoff man, may finally be emerging from his long offensive doldrums. The fleet shortstop reached base in each of his first three plate appearances (walk, double, single), scored a run and stole a base, and he now has hit safely in nine of 11 games this month, with a decent .280 average (12-for-43).
Just A.J. being A.J. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis walked four times, a career high, in four plate appearances. He never got past first base and actually got picked off after the third one, but it was another example of why he is one of the most underrated offensive players not only on the Dodgers roster but in the N.L. Ellis began the day third in the N.L. in on-base percentage at .422 and tied for sixth in the league with 30 walks.
Not so opportunistic. Through the first four innings, the Dodgers were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, including a run-scoring groundout by Ethier in the first inning. That also included wasting a leadoff double by Dee Gordon in the third, Garrett Richards coming up with back-to-back strikeouts of Ethier and Bobby Abreu after Gordon had gotten to third with one out. Even when the Dodgers finally did get a hit with a man in scoring position in the fifth (their ninth such at-bat), it wasn't really a hit. By the rules, Abreu was credited with a single when his two-out ground ball hit Gordon in the back for the final out of the inning.
Failure multiplied. On the night news broke of his new five-year, $85 million contract extension, Ethier's June swoon continued, and at the worst possible time considering the Dodgers need him to pick up the slack during Matt Kemp's absence. In his first four at-bats, Ethier grounded out and struck out three times, each of the first three at-bats coming with at least one runner in scoring position. Ethier still leads the N.L. in RBI with 52, but for June, he is hitting .119 (5-for-41) overall, with 15 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances. And oh, by the way, Ethier also allowed Trout to take an extra base on his game-tying, two-out, RBI single in the sixth, Ethier overthrowing the cutoff man with a rainbow to the plate that had absolutely no chance of cutting down Erick Aybar.
What happened? And speaking of June swoons ... Capuano's performance was far worse than his pitching line would indicate. He was charged with just two runs in five-plus innings, but he lived on the edge all night, the Angels stranded eight baserunners during the first five innings, six of them in scoring position. Of the 25 batters Capuano faced, 12 of them reached base via hit or walk. More alarming is the fact that a trend seems to be developing: Capuano was 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA through the end of May, but in three June starts, he is 1-1 with a 5.87 and hasn't lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings in any of them.