Stop the presses, the Dodgers are mortal. With their loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night the Dodgers tasted defeat for the third time in their last four games. The Dodgers, who made history with their recent run of 42 wins in 50 games, have followed that up by going 5-5 in their last 10 games.
The offense has been held to two or fewer runs in six of those 10 games, and as a team the Dodgers are hitting just .223/.301/.331 during that span.
"I feel like it's nothing more than a little bit of a lull," said manager Don Mattingly after the game. "We have some guys who are a little tired, honestly. We've had some funny start times from the time we've got back. We haven't had consistent times until these last two. We've been a little bit run down, but we'll be fine."
That lack of offense stung Clayton Kershaw, who saw two or fewer runs of support for the 14th time in his 28 starts, and suffered his eighth loss of the year despite a microscopic 1.72 ERA.
But Kershaw struggled in his own right on Tuesday. Only when he struggles, that means two runs were charged to his ledger.
"You're never going to have your best stuff every game. But you have to figure out ways to get guys out, regardless," Kershaw said. "Tonight there were just too many guys on base, too many walks, I got behind in the count, and stuff like that."
Kershaw did strikeout nine on the night, but a high pitch count led to his removal with two outs and two on in the sixth inning, down 2-0.
"We didn't see typical Clayton tonight. He needed a lot of pitches in the first inning. I thought they fought him pretty good, they fouled off a lot of balls. He wasn't quite as sharp as he has been," Mattingly said. "It seemed like it was a fight every inning almost. I felt like he had been far enough. I just wanted to stop it there with Brian, to give ourselves a chance to get back in the game and keep it right there at two (runs)."
The Dodgers did eventually scrape together two runs but the bullpen allowed one more, which proved to be the winning run for the Cubs. The Cubs loaded the bases when Ronald Belisario hit Junior Lake with a pitch in the seventh inning, a pitch Mattingly thought Lake offered at trying to bunt.
"I wanted to make sure, at least give (home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom) an opportunity to say (Lake) attempted to bunt," Mattingly said. "I wasn't looking for a foul ball; he knew it hit him. But if he's trying to bunt, it's still a strike. But (first base umpire Kerwin Danley), when he checked, said no, and I had no argument at that point."
The Cubs plated their third run of the game on a double play ground ball off the bat of pinch hitter Brian Bogusevic.
The Dodgers, who during their remarkable run won 11 straight one-run games, fell to 19-13 in one-run contests, including 12-5 at home. The Dodgers saw their division lead shrink to 8½ games over the Diamondbacks, extra-inning winners at home over the Padres on Tuesday night.
As the Dodgers are finding out, winning 80% of their games is a hard pace to keep up.
Luckily, they don't have to. Their magic number to clinch the National League West is 23, but the team is mostly focused on Wednesday afternoon, when they finish off their series against the Cubs. In the daily grind of Major League Baseball, the next day is often the farthest look ahead.
"That's why we play every day. You can't think about it too long," Kershaw said. "You probably don't anticipate us winning 80% of our games, but at the same time you don't ever think about losing either. It was bound to happen, we just have to come win tomorrow."