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Dodger bubble bursts quickly

Times Staff Writer

That was fun while it lasted.

On Monday, the Dodgers grabbed hold of a share of first place in the National League West, for the first time since the first week of the season.

On Tuesday, they fell back into second place, scoring but one run until the ninth inning, and perhaps setting the stage for the Dodgers to fire hitting coach Mike Easler and replace him with Don Mattingly.

Brian McCann hit two home runs and Jair Jurrjens stopped the Dodgers on one run over six innings, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 9-3 victory at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers had not lost so lopsided a game since June 12.

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“We haven’t had one of those for a while,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. “Not that you say it’s OK, but our pitching staff has done a heck of a job keeping us close and keeping us in games.”

The Dodgers stirred for two runs in the ninth inning, only to expose a bench so weak that Angel Berroa was used as a pinch-hitter, over Luis Maza and Danny Ardoin.

The Dodgers have given up the fewest runs of any team in the league, but they’re two games under .500. They rank among the bottom four in the league in runs scored, a flop that is expected to be handed to Mattingly to resolve.

Mattingly would become the Dodgers’ ninth hitting coach in the past 10 seasons. He resigned from the Dodgers’ coaching staff last January to tend to family matters amid a divorce, and the Dodgers promoted Easler from the minor league staff to replace him.

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Mattingly could start by making contact with two batters having trouble making contact.

Matt Kemp struck out four times Tuesday and has struck out 96 times this season, passing Adam Dunn for fourth place in the league. Ryan Howard leads the league at 124.

Andruw Jones had two singles, and one strikeout. He has struck out six times in 16 at-bats since returning from the disabled list and 51 times in 149 at-bats this season, a ratio worse than Kemp’s.

For the Dodgers, the evening started with such promise, even with the promise of history. On Monday, Hiroki Kuroda carried a perfect game into the eighth inning. On Tuesday, Chad Billingsley carried a no-hitter into the fifth.

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At that point, Billingsley had pitched 21 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run. But the streak ended with a thud, when Yunel Escobar cleared the bases with a one-out double, lifting the Braves to a 3-0 lead.

The Braves put up three more in the sixth inning -- one on a home run by All-Star catcher McCann, one on a two-out single by Gregor Blanco and one when Russell Martin dropped the ball at the plate, after a nice throw from Kemp in right field.

Mark Teixeira and McCann homered on consecutive pitches in the ninth, off Dodgers reliever Cory Wade.

Martin, the Dodgers’ All-Star catcher, committed two errors, overthrowing second base and dropping that throw.

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Martin has nine errors overall this season and eight as a catcher, the most of any catcher in the major leagues. He also has thrown out 14% of opposing baserunners, down from 30% last year.

Billingsley (8-8) lost for the first time in five starts.

He gave up six runs, a season high. He struck out eight, moving him into fourth place in the league behind Tim Lincecum and Edinson Volquez, both All-Stars, and Cole Hamels.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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