Blanton denied as Dodgers fall further off pace

Blanton denied as Dodgers fall further off pace

Blanton denied as Dodgers fall further off pace
LOS ANGELES -- The last two series between the Dodgers and Giants have resulted in sweeps, and after dropping Tuesday's game, 4-1, Los Angeles is running the risk of falling on the wrong end of another one.

After being swept in San Francisco at the end of June, the Dodgers returned the favor in July. Now, almost a month later, the Giants have taken the first two of three games at Dodger Stadium to build a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League West with ace Matt Cain scheduled to pitch the series finale against Chris Capuano.

Madison Bumgarner shut down the Dodgers' offense Monday night and Tim Lincecum did the same Tuesday with some help from his bullpen.

The two-time NL Cy Young winner and Joe Blanton both threw 5 2/3 innings, but it was the former who came out on top, allowing just one run compared with the Dodgers starter's four.

"I do have to give those guys credit," manager Don Mattingly said. "These are guys that can pitch. They are where they are for a reason. Two years ago they win the whole thing for a reason and a lot of it is the same guys who are pitching."

But is Mattingly concerned about his team's rival to the north, against whom he still has two more series with after this one?

Not exactly.

"They are a club we can handle and I think we will handle," he said. "But when you make pitches, there are times you are going to be shut down, and these two games have been a couple of those."

What he is slightly concerned about is the production from Andre Ethier, particularly against lefties.

The right fielder is hitting just .216 against southpaws this season, compared with his .319 mark against righties. Overall, he's batting just .197 in August and he is in a 1-for-22 slump after going hitless in four at-bats Tuesday.

Matt Kemp, like Ethier, is also in a 1-for-22 slump; however, Mattingly's worries about Kemp have subsided following Tuesday's game.

The center fielder delivered a single in the ninth and finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and a few encouraging at-bats.

"He just looked more settled tonight for me," Mattingly said. "He let the ball come to him a little more. He wasn't so anxious."

Kemp manufactured the Dodgers' only run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. He came up with one out and the bases loaded against Lincecum but managed to bring home only the lone run with a sellout crowd on its feet hoping for more.

"I knew I had to bear down and it wasn't about getting a strikeout there," Lincecum said. "I knew if I got a pop fly and they get a sac fly, we're still in a good situation."

"He just misses that ball," Mattingly said. "There are a ton of stadiums around the league where that ball is way back. This is just not one of them."

For the Dodgers, that inning was the best opportunity they had all night to put some runs on the board. A.J. Ellis drew a leadoff walk, which was followed by a single by Juan Rivera. After a Shane Victorino base hit up the middle, Ellis was thrown out at home by center fielder Angel Pagan with no outs.

"It was just a decision that didn't work out," Mattingly said. "It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, it just didn't work out."

Had he stopped at third, the Dodgers would have had the bases loaded for Adam Kennedy, who hit a single to right moments later.

Following Kemp's sacrifice fly, Ethier struck out swinging against lefty reliever Jose Mijares to strand runners on first and third.

Thanks to that failed opportunity and a lack of hitting throughout the rest of the game, Blanton took his third loss in four starts since joining the Dodgers after the Trade Deadline.

He has given up 18 runs in 21 innings, but neither he nor Mattingly are pushing the panic button anytime soon.

"My last start before this in Pittsburgh was just bad," Blanton said. "I wasn't very good that game and I was just off. Tonight, I felt like I threw the ball well. I thought it was the best I've thrown since I've been here. All singles, ground balls through the hole, bloopers in the outfield."

In that start against Pittsburgh, Blanton surrendered eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. On Tuesday, things settled down, but he still gave up four runs on 10 hits before being lifted with two outs in the sixth inning.

The first of those two runs came in the opening inning, when Blanton gave up two singles and a walk to the first three batters he faced. With no outs and the bases loaded, Buster Posey dropped in a two-run base hit.

In the fourth, an RBI single by Brandon Crawford scored Gregor Blanco, who singled and advanced to third on an errant throw by Blanton on a pickoff attempt. Crawford later scored on a Pagan double that gave the Giants a four-run cushion.

Alex Angert is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.