After 43 games, the Dodgers weren't playing good baseball. The injuries were mounting. But they could still see first place. They were three games behind the Giants going into Wednesday's game.
Six days later, the Dodgers have lost five of six games, the Giants have won five straight, including a two-game sweep at Chavez Ravine, and the Dodgers are 7 1/2 games out of first place.
The season isn't over on May 24. But it's in jeopardy of getting away, especially when there are so few options in an injury-depleted bullpen.
Kenley Jansen was left on the mound for 38 pitches Monday en route to a three-run ninth inning and a devastating 4-3 loss to the Astros.
Jansen had pitched extremely well -- 10 straight outings without a run, including two scoreless in Friday's extra-inning win. He was the best option in the ninth, especially after Mike MacDougal pitched the seventh and Matt Guerrier the eighth.
But he didn't have it in this game. The inning started with a strikeout, then a single, then another strikeout after falling behind 3-0, then an 11-pitch walk. Jansen was winded and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visited the mound, but he remained in the game.
Michael Bourn's two-run double tied it. Manager Don Mattingly kept him in longer. Then he hit Clint Barmes on an 0-2 pitch. Scott Elbert, who was in the minors 10 days ago, was warming in the bullpen.
Mattingly stuck with Jansen for another batter, and Hunter Pence singled home the game-winning run.
It took away a feel-good story of Andre Ethier coming off the bench to deliver a huge hit. Ethier didn't start Monday -- he was nursing injuries to his elbow, back and big toe. But he hit for starter Clayton Kershaw, and his single scored two runs for a 3-1 lead.
Houston manager Brad Mills forced the issue by intentionally walking Russ Mitchell, after a two-out double by Dioner Navarro. Mattingly pulled Kershaw, despite six innings of one-run ball and just 84 pitches, and even though Ethier was in a 1-for-30 slump.
It worked. Ethier fell behind 0-2 quickly, then singled up the middle to score Navarro. Bourn overran the ball in center field, and Mitchell scored from first base.
That Ethier could play was much needed good news. He woke up Monday and didn't feel very sore after running into an outfield wall in the fourth inning Sunday and leaving the game. Ethier could start Tuesday, but Mattingly might choose to play it cautious for another day, especially with lefty J.A. Happ starting.
The health news on catcher Rod Barajas wasn't as good. An MRI came back negative on his wrist, but it's still sprained and sore. He was not available to play. Mitchell is considered an "emergency" catcher, but all teams are nervous going with just one catcher for very long.
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