Urgency is a word Mattingly has avoided, but there's no avoiding it now with only 30 games remaining in the season and the Dodgers falling a season-worst 4 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco in the National League West. Focus is another word he used with the media and, no doubt, mentioned to his players.
The Dodgers have lost four of the last five games to teams with losing records, three of the last four to Colorado and Arizona, two in shutouts. They've lost seven straight to the D-backs, are 4-9 on the season against them and 24-28 in the division.
Mattingly also grudgingly acknowledged there is a challenge to executing the radical makeover the Dodgers have undergone with their spending and acquisition spree. Turning over one-third of the roster since the All-Star break is probably baseball's equivalent to the kind of merger integrations new chairman Mark Walter is more familiar with in the business world.
"We're definitely in a different situation with new guys," said Mattingly, who seems to have wrestled with the pros and cons of the short-handed roster with an upbeat chemistry that the Dodgers had, vs. the star-studded lineup he now has that clearly is not meshing.
"I felt some things needed to be said from me and I feel better letting them know how I feel," he said.
Surely he told his club how wasteful it is not to score when the ace is on the mound.
Kershaw is 12-8, the Dodgers scoring a total of 11 runs in those eight losses. This was his seventh consecutive quality start, as he battled through six innings with nine hits, nine strikeouts and three walks. He struggled with his command and a pesky Arizona batting approach that ran up the pitch count. But he slithered out of trouble until the fourth inning.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game and we did a good job of working him," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "He had 33 pitches through the first two innings and then we worked him for 23 and 22 and got his pitch count up and got him into some extended innings."
Miguel Montero opened the fourth with a double off the right-field fence and Chris Young followed by tucking a mislocated 2-2 slider just inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer.
"I don't know if it hung, but it was just in the middle of the plate," Kershaw said.
Meanwhile, Ian Kennedy out-pitched Kershaw, and there were no beanballs or hard slides or any of the bad blood that has simmered in past clashes between the clubs. Kennedy (12-11) allowed only two hits over 6 1/3 innings without a runner advancing past second base.
"It's my fault. If we don't get runs, I don't give up any either," said Kershaw, typically taking the blame. "I blinked first. Kennedy pitched great tonight."
That said, Kershaw didn't deny that there are intangibles in play with so many new faces.
"You get a lot of new guys, on paper we have a great lineup. Talent-wise I don't think there is any denying that we have a ton of talent in here," he said. "It's just a matter of going out there and playing, not pressing, just going out there swinging the bats the way we are capable of, executing pitches the way we are capable of and just going out there and doing it. It's not easy sometimes with a bunch of new guys, but there are no excuses right now."
Mattingly has been asked about the challenges of integrating so many new players onto a club that raved about its chemistry.
"I think we've handled the trades fine. We haven't played great," he said. "For me, it's a matter of not getting the job done on the field. We're professionals, we've got stuff going on all the time. We've got to be good enough to focus at game time."
Although the Dodgers' bullpen is in disarray because of ailments, Jamey Wright relieved Kershaw and pitched two perfect innings, followed by Brandon League, who escaped a jam in the top of the ninth.
The Dodgers' best threat was opening the bottom of the ninth against J.J. Putz with singles by Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, but Putz got Andre Ethier on a forceout, Luis Cruz on a flyout and Juan Rivera on a popup. Rivera, starting with Matt Kemp sidelined, also grounded into an inning-ending double play with two on in the seventh.