LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to endure the tension of a high-wire act caused by their struggling offense.
They lost 6-3 in 11 innings to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, a painful loss on a night when the nearest wild-card contender won. Each of the Dodgers' previous six games had been decided by one run or two. Tuesday was their third 11-inning game in five days.
The Dodgers, who blew a 3-1 lead for ace Clayton Kershaw, fell 1 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card race. They remained 4 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants with three games up north this weekend.
Ace caliber. It's a fine line between a Cy Young season and a 12-8 season, it would seem. Kershaw's interior numbers are just a notch worse than last season's -- WHIP, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts, everything -- but the results have been radically different. Kershaw has continued to do a professional job handling what he can control. He had to work hard to get through seven innings -- needing 116 pitches -- but he minimized damage and struck out nine, giving him three straight seasons breaking the 200-strikeout mark.
Forward movement. The Dodgers have been waiting for Adrian Gonzalez to match the dramatics of his first at-bat in blue. Instead, they got a long stretch of silence. Gonzalez went into Tuesday 8-for-41 with just five RBIs since that first Dodgers home run, but maybe some adjustments are starting to pay off. Gonzalez had a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly. Paired with Sunday's two-run walk-off double, Tuesday might have given Gonzalez a semblance of momentum. They need him to get rolling.
Big stick. Remember when everyone was wondering where Andre Ethier's power went? He's a long way from his 30-home run power of a few years ago, but lately he has been driving the ball with authority, even against left-handed pitchers. Ethier hit a solo shot to right off lefty Eric Stults in the second inning. It was his fifth home run in the past two weeks and third this homestand. He's the streakiest hitter on the team, but lately he also has been the most dangerous.
Scant relief. Kershaw worked too hard to see reliever Matt Guerrier trot in and give up the tying home run. Then again, there was nothing he could do at that point. Guerrier has put up some nice numbers this year when he's been healthy -- holding right-handed hitters to a .077 batting average, for example -- but none of that matters if you can't protect leads. Guerrier took the loss in Friday's game. Don Mattingly might hesitate to use him in high-pressure situations if this keeps happening. The fact he was in the game tells you how much Mattingly trusts Ronald Belisario.
Bermuda Triangle. Other than Ethier jogging over it, the Dodgers couldn't successfully traverse the third-base line for a while. Mark Ellis got picked off at third with one out in the first inning (a brutal mistake), and Gonzalez strayed a bit too far on Hanley Ramirez's sharp grounder to third (a slightly less egregious gaffe). If not for a bit of overeager baserunning so close to home, the Dodgers could have made things easier on themselves.
Main man. Matt Kemp hasn't been right at the plate since a massive collision with the center-field wall in Colorado last week. He had a single but also struck out twice and has gone 3-for-21 this homestand. It might have been the collision. It might have been the disruption from missing a couple of games. Or it might just coincide with a cold stretch. It doesn't really matter, but the Dodgers need more key hits from their biggest bat.