PHOENIX — Matt Kemp spent the last seven weeks on the disabled list waiting to feel what he felt Monday night.
Adrenaline. Game on the line. Screaming fans.
Kemp cherished the moment, even if he didn’t do what he envisioned when he was called by Manager Don Mattingly to pinch-hit with runners on second and third base. He struck out, recording the final out of the Dodgers’ 2-1 defeat to the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
If Kemp was distraught by the result of his ninth-inning at-bat against Brad Ziegler, he didn’t show it.
The Dodgers lost their fourth straight and for the ninth time in 12 games. But with two weeks remaining in the regular season and the Dodgers’ magic number at four, for Kemp this was about preparing himself October.
“It’s just going out there and competing,” said Kemp, who was reinstated from the disabled list before the game.
Kemp’s sudden availability obscured who wasn’t available.
While Yasiel Puig returned to the lineup, three key players remained sidelined.
Hanley Ramirez was still recovering from an irritated nerve. Carl Crawford continued to nurse what he described as a sharp pain in his back. Andre Ethier showed up at Chase Field wearing a protective boot for his sore ankle.
This felt familiar to the Dodgers, who were ravaged by injuries in the first couple of months of the season.
“We were joking around during the ninth,” Adrian Gonzalez said. “We were like, ‘We should pinch-hit Carl. Oh, we can’t. We should pinch-hit Dre. Oh, we can’t.’ We’ve got guys who need to get healthy.”
The Dodgers were held to four hits, including only two over 51/3 innings against Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill. They were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Their lead over Arizona, which was at 13 games only six days earlier, was down to 91/2 games.
“We’re going to win our games,” Gonzalez said. “We just have to stay patient. We have a few guys down right now. We’ll definitely make it happen.”
Ramirez was scheduled to resume hitting drills. Crawford and Ethier weren’t, however.
“Right now, I’m taking it day to day,” Crawford said. “I was hoping to feel better today and it didn’t feel like I would have liked it to.”
Crawford said he had similar problems with his back in July.
“It’s like exactly the same,” Crawford said.
The last time, the discomfort in his back vanished over the four-day All-Star break. Crawford didn’t know if he could recover as quickly this time, in part because he didn’t even know what was wrong with him.
Crawford admitted he was concerned.
“It’s like a sharp pain in my lower back,” he said. “It’s your back. I’ve never really had back problems before. Your natural instincts are to be a little concerned.”
While Crawford performed exercises to strengthen his back, Ethier remained completely shut down.
“We’re still a few days away with him,” Mattingly said of Ethier.
The most encouraging sign for the Dodgers came from the mound, as Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched a two-hitter. The two runs charged to Ryu came on one swing, a two-run home run by Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning.
Ryu retired 19 consecutive batters during one stretch.
The performance was the best in more than a month for Ryu, who appeared to be getting fatigued over the last few weeks.