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July swoons from Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig proving costly

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A's shut out Dodgers

Sonny Gray pitches a complete game, striking out nine in the Athletics' 2-0 win over the Dodgers.

LOS ANGELES -- There was a time, just a month ago though it seems like more, when Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig were the primary signs of life in the Los Angeles Dodgers' offense. Without them, this lineup looks a bit lumbering and, at times, a bit old.

But right now, the team's two young catalysts aren't sparking much of anything other than outs. Pederson looks like he's ready to go after a water cooler with his bat -- if he hasn't already -- as the frustration of trying to fix his swing consumes the rookie. Puig might be bothered by trade rumors, frivolous as they may be, more than he's letting on.

Different processes, but similar results. In fact, the numbers are eerily similar -- and they aren't pretty. After Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Oakland A's and their brilliant young ace, Sonny Gray, Pederson is batting .176 with 28 strikeouts and, alarmingly, just four walks and one home run this month. Three true outcomes have effectively been reduced to one.

Puig is hitting .179 with 25 strikeouts and five walks in July.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly acknowledged he and the coaches have thought about switching leadoff hitters with Pederson in his on-base rut and angling toward 200 strikeouts, but there aren't a lot of alternatives. One of them, Carl Crawford, isn't even a starter. Another, Jimmy Rollins, is batting .210. Another one is Puig.

After the game, Mattingly said he is growing a bit concerned with Pederson's mounting strikeouts, declining walks and displays of anger -- he flipped his bat and slammed his helmet after one strikeout Tuesday -- but also said he'll take his chances with Pederson's talent and work ethic every time.

"I know it looks like he swings for the fences every time, but that's not really what he's trying to do," Mattingly said. "He's working on trying to get inside the ball a little more and use his body. He's frustrated. At some point, Joc's going to get that front-side thing and he's going to be a monster. He's going to be tough to get out."

There continue to be persistent rumors that the Dodgers are open to listening to offers for Puig, suggestions that -- one month ago -- would have been laughed off by fans and quickly quashed by the team. Mattingly said before the game he hasn't heard Puig's name mentioned by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman or general manager Farhan Zaidi, and that "I'm assuming that if something was really going on, they would tell me."

The way Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are pitching this season, it's hard to see the Dodgers parting with their only right-handed-hitting starting outfielder under the age of 30 and making less than $18 million, especially one with a lifetime .865 OPS. The problem has been when Kershaw and Greinke aren't pitching, thus the Dodgers' all-out search for a starting pitcher or two before Friday's trade deadline.

Brett Anderson actually eased that worry just a tad by pitching seven strong innings and generally looking healthy after a sluggish first inning. He acknowledged he still is dealing with some irritation in the Achilles tendon behind his left ankle, and you could see it as he hobbled over to cover first base early in Tuesday's game. But at least for now, it appears something he can pitch through.

Anderson's biggest problems Tuesday were two of the only guys still wearing green and gold from the A's team he left at the end of the 2013 season. Gray pitched a three-hit shutout and Josh Reddick had two hits off Anderson, including a solo home run.

Anderson, as injury-prone as they come, already has pitched more innings this season than he has in any season since his rookie year of 2009, and the Dodgers desperately need to keep him on his feet and pitching every fifth day or so. That made Tuesday a fairly palatable loss, given the caliber of pitcher it came against and the confidence it gave them in Anderson's ability to keep going.

"Stuff wasn't great, but for coming off an injury scare and being able to get ground balls, I'll take it," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough against an All-Star and one of the best pitchers in the game."