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First inning a concern for Dodgers

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- It may not have mattered if the Angels scored in the first inning on Monday night the way Garrett Richards was pitching, but the four runs allowed by Zack Greinke and the Dodgers certainly didn't help matters.

Greinke has allowed first inning runs in just six of his 23 starts, but in those six opening frames he has allowed 16 runs, seven more than Greinke has allowed in any other inning this season. Two of the four runs on Monday were unearned, but Greinke's 5.48 first-inning ERA sticks out like a sore thumb.

Those six games account for all but one of Greinke's losses this season. But he didn't see a need to change his approach.

"You try to establish your strike zone, throwing strikes, establish your fastball. That's what you usually do, but when guys get on base you start to mix it up. My biggest issue is that I haven't been able mix it up in time and locate with offspeed early enough," Greinke explained. "Today I saw what was happening but wasn't executing good enough. Sometimes it takes a little bit to get into a groove, and today was one of those days."

In 2014 the Dodgers have been outscored 58-50 in the first inning, the most runs they have allowed in any frame this season.

"Our last four games, we've lost pretty much three in the first inning," manager Don Mattingly said. "A pretty good baseball man told me one time the two most important innings are the first and the ninth. Be ready to play in the first and be ready to play in the ninth."

To note, the Dodgers have also been outscored 35-22 in the ninth inning this season, their inning with the worst run differential.

Mattingly is almost right. The Cubs scored in the first inning on both Saturday and Sunday, but the first of those was a win by the Dodgers in extra innings. The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Friday, though the Cubs came right back with a run in the second and three more in the third to pull away.

But Mattingly's overall point holds true, and seems obvious. The Dodgers would do well by not playing from behind, something they have done on four of the seven games of this homestand. After all, the Dodgers are 49-16 when scoring first this season.

Clayton Kershaw, starting on Tuesday night for the Dodgers, has allowed three first-inning runs in 17 starts this season, but none since May 28. In his last 11 starts, Kershaw in the first inning has allowed five hits and no walks while striking out 17.