What started as a feel-good road trip has taken a turn for disappointment.
The Dodgers lost an emotionally draining game in Pittsburgh on Thursday in which their manager and best player were ejected, then they blew an eighth-inning 3-1 lead on Friday to lose to the Atlanta Braves, 4-3 in 11 innings.
The Dodgers can still salvage a winning road trip with a victory in one of this weekend's games in Atlanta.
Deserved more. It's got to be the most frustrating situation for a starting pitcher. He has been absolutely dominant, but the manager is on alert because it's getting into the late innings, his pitch count is up and the manager has a full bullpen. Chris Capuano deserved a win for his 7 1/3 innings of rock-solid pitching, but after two guys got on in the eighth inning, Don Mattingly summoned Ronald Belisario. He looked like he might get out of it with the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead, but Jayson Heyward came up with a clutch RBI single. That cost Capuano a 12th win he was entitled to.
Resumption of power. Andre Ethier hadn't hit a home run since July 14, when he swung at a first-pitch, hanging breaking ball from Tommy Hanson and hit it into the second deck in right field. That sixth-inning shot put the Dodgers ahead for the first time. It's not as if Ethier hasn't been productive since he got back in the lineup, but he is -- after all -- the guy who typically bats cleanup. He has to resume hitting doubles and home runs if the Dodgers are going to continue the offensive surge that started on this trip.
Cruz control. The joy ride continues for Luis Cruz, the 28-year-old lifetime minor leaguer who has given the Dodgers surprising pop since being brought up from Triple-A Albuquerque. Cruz was 3-for-3, walked twice and scored a run. The Dodgers have unappealing options for third base aside from Cruz, so he could be in for some major playing time in the next six weeks. If he keeps this up, it will be impossible to keep him out of the lineup.
Two-way struggles. Matt Treanor hasn't gotten a hit since July 26 (though he plays only once or twice a week). The Dodgers can live with a sub-.200 batting average a little more easily if his defense and pitch-calling are outstanding. But he got flustered when the best base stealer in the National League, Michael Bourn, got on base with one out in the 10th inning. Bourn got a great jump, Treanor rushed his throw and it trickled into center field to let Bourn take third easily. Brandon League was able to pitch around it, but it wasn't a good night for the Dodgers' backup catcher, who was 0-for-5 at the plate.
Quiet night. At times, it seems as if the Dodgers just wait for Matt Kemp to do something big. When he gets no hits -- as he did Friday -- the offense tends to look flat. What's worse is that Kemp is probably looking at a one-game suspension, eventually, for his ejection from Thursday's game, so that will be another challenge for the Dodgers' offense.
Juan, two ... Mattingly must fret about it even before he calls Juan Rivera's name as a pinch hitter: the double play. It has been the bane of Rivera's career since he broke his leg playing winter ball in Venezuela five years ago. Predictably, after Hanley Ramirez led off the 11th inning with a single, Rivera came up and hit one sharply to the shortstop for an easy rally-killing double play. It was the 13th GDP of Rivera's season, a high number considering he has yet to have his 300th at-bat.