Skidding Dodgers, with Kemp out and Gordon slumping, face sternest test yet

ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers still owned the best record in the National League entering this weekend's series with the Angels. But life without Matt Kemp is gaining on them.

Sloppy defense, poor fundamentals and soft offensive execution conspired against them as the Athletics swept them over three games in Oakland this week. They had lost six of their past nine, and life isn't getting any easier.

The Dodgers have three here this weekend with the much-improved Angels, whose 32-18 record since April 28 is the best in the majors.

Then they head up to San Francisco for three beginning on Monday, where the Giants, at four games back, are laying in wait.

"Too many easy innings for the pitchers," manager Don Mattingly said of the Oakland series, referring to Dodgers hitters not making the A's pitchers work. "Too many mistakes on defense. Those are the kinds of things that, as a ballclub, we know we can't afford.

"We've got to play mistake-free baseball."

Especially as long as Kemp is out.

The Dodgers hastily arranged an early-afternoon bunting tutorial for leadoff man Dee Gordon, who has been killing them lately. Gordon took the air out of a potential rally Thursday in Oakland when he failed to notice that the bunt sign had been removed by the Dodgers dugout. His bunting has been awful, anyway, and his on-base percentage is just .274.

Meantime, the Dodgers are only 5-7 through the first 12 of 15 interleague games.

"We're not going to change who we are," Mattingly said. "We've just got to come to play, that's all. We have the patience and understanding that we'll go through stretches where we lose games here and there.

"And we're going to be patient with it -- as long as we're fighting and playing smart."

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