The slow-motion playoff race is now being run in reverse. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost for the sixth time in their past seven games, blowing a lead to lose 3-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Wednesday, but remain just a game out of the wild-card lead because the team they're pursuing, the St. Louis Cardinals, has been just as cold.
After Luis Cruz's hit in the fourth inning, the Dodgers' final 16 hitters went down in order. The Dodgers are hitting .184 in their past four games.
Because the Cardinals and Dodgers have been so cold, several other teams are starting to crowd them from behind. Milwaukee and Philadelphia, both of whom were sellers at the trade deadline, suddenly are within three games of the second wild card.
Coming through. The Dodgers -- and their fans -- have been waiting for Adrian Gonzalez to come through. He is too good a hitter to continue to struggle as he has been. His second big hit of the trip came early -- in the first inning -- when Gonzalez lined a double into the gap in right-center to drive in two runs. As bad as the Dodgers' offense has been going, they didn't need heroics. They needed hits. You would have thought Gonzalez's hit would have eased the lineup back into its comfort zone, but it didn't.
Cruz'in. Luis Cruz went 0-for-San Francisco, but he has been the Dodgers' lone source of dynamism in Arizona. He had four hits in the two games and nearly won Tuesday's game, but Jason Kubel made a leaping catch at the wall to rob him of a home run. Cruz is outperforming a lot of better-paid Dodgers players and it has kept the bottom from completely falling out of this offense.
Solid performer. Aaron Harang's night illustrated what it's like to pitch for the Dodgers this year. He allowed only four hits through 5 2/3 innings, but when Don Mattingly lifted him in the sixth inning, the only decision he was eligible for was a loss. That's exactly what Harang got when lefty specialist Randy Choate couldn't get an out from the one batter he faced, Gerardo Parra shooting a single through the left side to give Arizona a 3-2 lead.
Kemp's bat. For a while, Matt Kemp managed to keep his numbers at a surprisingly high level despite missing one-third of the season because of injuries. Now, it looks as though the beating he has taken is starting to sap his hitting ability. Kemp, who has dealt with hamstring, knee and shoulder issues, has had a rough September, with just four hits this month. For the Dodgers to have any chance of going from frozen to warm this month, they badly need their biggest bat. To his credit, he has continued to play hard in center field. He made a sprawling catch to prevent a bloop hit in the seventh inning.
Roll slowed. Hanley Ramirez was the one big bat steadily producing for about a month. Now he, too, has slowed down, with just two hits on this six-game trip. He may as well join the club. It's almost as if the other frigid bats around him cooled him off. Ramirez isn't shy about taking big swings. Maybe that's why he hit all those home runs when he first got to the Dodgers. Right now, the Dodgers could just use him getting on base every once in a while.
Rough neighborhood. The Dodgers finished their season series going 6-12 against Arizona. So far, they have losing records against both San Francisco and San Diego. No wonder they are about to lose the West. Poor play against the NL West doesn't bode well for the end of the season. The Dodgers' final nine games are against San Diego, Colorado and the Giants.