What at first glance looked like a step forward was, in fact, a step back.
The Dodgers won two of three games against the Colorado Rockies over the weekend, only for their deficit to the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West to increase to 9 1/2 games.
The players know this.
When Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp talked about the Dodgers' rain-shortened, 6-1 victory over the Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field, they did so in terms of how it related to overcoming the Giants.
"We need all the wins we can get," Kershaw said. "San Francisco's not slowing down. As tough as it is not to look up at the scoreboard, we just have to keep trying to win. Hopefully, this is a good start."
Kemp voiced similar thoughts.
"Every series is important, especially the way the Giants are playing," Kemp said. "They're winning a lot of series. We have to continue to win series."
The Giants have won 10 of their last 12 games.
To not lose more ground Sunday, the Dodgers had to win short-handed, as Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon remained sidelined because of hip injuries. Manager Don Mattingly started two players who had never started a game in the major leagues: Jamie Romak in right field and Miguel Rojas at third base.
Romak and Rojas collected their first hits and drove in their first runs in consecutive at-bats in a four-run sixth inning.
The half-inning was followed by a rain delay of 1 hour 35 minutes, after which the game was called. Because the Dodgers led before the inning started, their statistics from the top of the sixth inning counted, much to the relief of Romak and Rojas.
The game provided reasons for the hopeful about the remainder of the season.
Pitching five innings under a steady drizzle, Kershaw limited the Rockies to one run and three hits. He struck out nine batters and didn't walk any, looking more like the pitcher last season who won his second Cy Young Award.
Hanley Ramirez launched a 461-foot home run in the sixth inning and Matt Kemp was two for two with a two-run triple.
In the three games at Colorado, Kemp was five for nine with two triples, three runs batted in, two runs and three walks. In the 11 games he played leading up to the series, Kemp was four for 38.
Mattingly wasn't ready to declare this a turning point for the Dodgers, saying they had to play like this with greater consistency.
Before the game, the manager spoke about navigating the team out of dangerous waters.
Mattingly made it a point to say that when he criticized the team last week, he wasn't trying to distance himself from the players.
"I'm definitely not going to separate myself," he said. "The manager, at the end of the day, is really going to be the guy that gets the wins and the losses."
Mattingly said last week that players lacked a common objective. Asked how much of that was his responsibility, he said, "You always have to take responsibility for your club, no doubt about that. … I always look at it like being out in that ocean and knowing where you're going. You're out in the middle and you don't see anything, but you have to know where you're going. I think that's where my job in a leadership position, and our coaches' jobs, is to be leaders, to stay positive for the most part and continue to make adjustments, don't just accept that things are going to work themselves out. I think you continue to make adjustments until you get what you want."
Mattingly said the Dodgers' problems now are similar to the team's problems early last year.
The Dodgers recovered last season in large part because of the emergence of Puig and the return of Ramirez from an injury. Reminded there was nothing on the horizon that could provide the team with a similar jolt, Mattingly replied, "Those guys are still here. It's just a matter of getting it all going."
Mattingly said he thinks the players are still listening to him.
"I do," he said. "You hope, right? Certain guys are going to listen, certain guys are not. That's just the way it is. What I do know is we have a large group that want to win and want to have that same feeling of winning games. I think we all want that, so I don't think that's a problem."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times