LOS ANGELES -- Throughout the Los Angeles Dodgers' three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, players have been asked if they felt there was a playoff atmosphere at Dodger Stadium. If they felt this series could be a preview of things to come two months from now.
Over the past three days they've smiled at the questions, nodded their heads, and said there was something different about this interleague series and the atmosphere in the stadium.
The Dodgers, however, can only hope the results of the series aren't any indication of their playoff prospects after an 8-1 loss on Sunday night. The defeat was not only the Dodgers' second consecutive loss to the Red Sox, it gave them their first back-to-back losses at home since June 10. It was also the Dodgers' first series loss since June 16 when they dropped two of three on the road to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before Sunday, they had been unbeaten in their previous 18 series.
As was the case Saturday, Boston jumped out to an early lead and the Dodgers simply could not put any runs on the board outside of an Adrian Gonzalez at-bat.
Mike Napoli started things off in the first inning with a ground-rule double to deep right center that scored Shane Victorino. Boston added two more runs in the third and fourth innings when Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Jacoby Ellsbury, and Xander Bogaerts doubled to center to score Will Middlebrooks. The Red Sox piled on runs in the sixth and seventh innings when Jared Saltalamacchia hit a two-run blast and Victorino homered to left. And after starting things off in the first inning, Napoli put the finishing touches on the game with a two-run homer in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers' lone bright spot was Gonzalez, who hit a solo shot to center field in the fourth inning, but the Dodgers simply couldn't muster anything else against Jake Peavey, who pitched a complete game, giving up only three hits and one run.
As good as the Dodgers' pitching staff has been this summer, Chris Capuano has been viewed as the weak link of the rotation, and he did nothing to dispel that notion Sunday, pitching five innings and giving up five hits and three runs, all earned. The normally reliable bullpen wasn't much better as Chris Withrow came in and gave up two home runs in two innings of work. Brandon League then gave up the two-run shot in the ninth inning as most of the Dodgers fans were already making their way to their cars.
Of course, come playoff time, the Dodgers will lean on Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco, who posted a 2-0 win over Boston on Friday. The Red Sox were able to avoid facing Kershaw and Greinke in this series. That won't be the case if these two teams do end up meeting in an actual playoff series in October.