LOS ANGELES--Familiar problems resurfaced Thursday for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their manager.
Brian Wilson again didn't resemble the pitcher he was last season, as he was charged with four runs in the ninth inning of a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
There were problems aside from the continued instability of Wilson, who has already spent 15 days out because of issues with his surgically repaired elbow.
The Dodgers made another costly error, this time in the form of a routine bouncer hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's glove and dribbling into the outfield. The error was the Dodgers' 23rd in 23 games.
What could have resulted in an inning-ending double play instead created a three-run fifth inning for the Phillies, who reversed a two-run deficit. Gonzalez tied the game with a solo home run in the seventh inning, but the Phillies moved back in front on a two-run double by Carlos Ruiz in the ninth and went on to win at Dodger Stadium for the third time in four days.
As for their manager's problem, it was something that had to be dealt with before the game.
Again, Don Mattingly had to start one of his four high-profiled outfielders on the bench. On this day, it was Matt Kemp's turn to sit.
"Every day, this is really a little bit of a problem," Mattingly said.
Mattingly made it sound as if he was looking forward to the day when drawing up his lineup wouldn't be an ordeal.
"You're going to try to keep everybody in the mix at this point, but there will come a day where you're going to say, 'We're going with what we think is our best club,'" he said.
When that day will come, Mattingly wouldn't say. What criteria he would use to determine his regular outfield, he also wouldn't say.
"I think they're going to tell me which way to go, more than anything," he said. "It doesn't matter what idea I have. I think it will work itself out."
In other words, how the players perform will dictate how much they play. At the moment, none of them are standing out. Yasiel Puig went into the game Thursday batting .269, Kemp .218, Carl Crawford .217 and Andre Ethier .206.
So far, Mattingly has treated his four outfielders more or less the same.
Puig and Ethier have each started 17 games. Kemp and Crawford, who didn't play in the season-opening series in Australia, have each started 14.
How Mattingly intended to change the division of playing time remained a mystery.
"I don't know if it's really like that, if it's one guy (who sits) and everyone else plays," Mattingly said. "We'll see how it goes."
The decision to sit Kemp on Thursday was particularly difficult, according to Mattingly.
With right-hander Kyle Kendrick starting for the Phillies, Mattingly wanted his lineup to include the left-handed-hitting Crawford and Ethier.
Ethier was six for 22 in his career against Kendrick, with two home runs and two doubles. Crawford was one for three.
In Mattingly's mind, the choice he had to make was to start Kemp or Puig.
Kemp was a .400 hitter in 15 career at-bats against Kendrick. His season has looked something like a three-week slump, but he looked on the previous night as if he might be on the verge of breaking out of it, as he doubled twice in a win.
But Puig also doubled twice Wednesday. Plus, Puig was five for six against Kendrick last year.
"Is it more stress?" Mattingly said. "It is. But it's a good problem."
Mattingly pointed to how the surplus of outfielders strengthened his bench.
"Today, Matt sits there and they want to go left-handed at a certain spot, you know you have a good matchup," he said.
That situation came up in the sixth inning, when Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg called on left-hander Jake Diekman to face Crawford with two outs and runners on first and second base.
Mattingly countered by batting Kemp in place of Crawford.
Kemp struck out.
"In this league, you end up in the game every day," Mattingly said. "You really do. There was a game in San Francisco we didn't play Matt, he ended up getting three hits. Even if you don't start, you're a big part of the mix, you're a big part of what can happen that night."
Whatever the case, Mattingly said he wanted to be sensitive to the feelings of his four high-profile players.
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