Baseball / Sports

Dodgers' trip ends with a stumble, loss to Nationals

WASHINGTON -- It seemed only fitting that the Los Angeles Dodgers had to wait out one final rain delay Wednesday before they could close the books on one of the most difficult trips in recent memory.

In the span of 10 days and nine games, the Dodgers endured a rainout followed by a 21-inning doubleheader in Minneapolis, two rain delays totaling 4 hours 57 minutes in Washington, and a pair of extra-inning games -- one that lasted more than five hours and another that lasted more than four.

It was such an arduous journey that manager Don Mattingly was left scratching his head and searching for positives.

And that was before the Dodgers lost Wednesday's chilly matinee to the Nationals, 3-2, sending them home a game further behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants than they were when they left.

"Miami was good every day there," Mattingly offered cheerily before explaining why.

"Indoors," he said.

But even the retractable roof over Marlins Park couldn't keep out all the bad, such as Yasiel Puig's nearly killing himself by running headlong into the right-field fence. That kept him on the sidelines for two days.

"It doesn't feel like there's any good coming out of it at this point," Mattingly finally said in summing up the trip. "I don't want to accept that just because you had some tough travel and you had some tough games that that changes anything. Because those games in Minnesota are over.

"You get your rest, you reload and you go. That's just what our game calls for. You travel a lot. You play a lot.

"There's been a lot of good things that have happened on the trip. There's been things that we're not that happy about. It's kind of like the season so far."

A season that, in Mattingly's estimation, has been maddeningly inconsistent. The Dodgers' rotation, for example, entered Wednesday with the best record in baseball. But their bullpen has the most losses.

Only one second baseman has more errors than Dee Gordon. But none has more hits, a higher average or more stolen bases.

"You can't sit here and say you're totally disappointed with the way we're playing. But you can't really sit here and say we're really happy with the way things are going," the manager said. "We feel like we're better than this. We've been inconsistent offensively. We've been consistently not very good defensively.

"It's not been great. But we feel like we're in the pack. We're OK."

And if the trip was representative of the season, then Wednesday's finale was reflective of the trip.

For starters, it was delayed 100 minutes by rain. Then both teams slogged through a strange first inning in which the Dodgers sent seven men to the plate against Stephen Strasburg, scoring two runs on four hits, only to see the Nationals answer by sending eight men to the plate against Dan Haren, tying the score by scoring two runs on four hits.

Strasburg then got 12 of the next 13 Dodgers, and Haren retired nine of 10 Nationals before giving up another run in the fifth on Wilson Ramos' bases-loaded sacrifice fly that proved to be the difference.

A big difference, as it turned out, because though the Dodgers boarded their charter having won five of nine games on the trip, they've lost four of their last five series.

"I know we swept Minnesota, but it seems like it was weeks ago," Haren said of the Dodgers' three-game series with the Twins that started the trip. "It's been a long road trip, that's for sure. A lot of rain, different types of weather, delays, extra innings. I think everyone's really looking forward to getting back home.

"We're definitely not playing to our potential. We're just more like treading water right now."

KEY MOMENT: After a rough first inning, Dan Haren retired nine of the next 10 batters to keep the Dodgers in the game. But that came undone in the fifth when three of the first four batters reached base ahead of a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Wilson Ramos, who was playing for the first time since breaking a bone in his left hand on opening day.

AT THE PLATE: Carl Crawford had his third straight multiple-hit game and was eight for 13 in the three-game series. Yasiel Puig, playing for the first time since running into the fence in Miami, singled in a run in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to seven games. Denard Span had two hits and scored twice for the Nationals, and Ramos also had a double and a walk.

ON THE MOUND: Haren took the mound with a 2-0 lead but quickly gave it back, facing eight batters in the first inning, giving up two runs and four hits. The right-hander, who lost for the first time in five decisions this year, settled down after that but complained of back stiffness after the game. Back problems forced Haren to the disabled list two years ago. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg also had a rough first inning but quickly righted himself, giving up only three more hits while pitching into the eighth.

EXTRA BASES: After dropping two of three in both Washington and Miami, the Dodgers have lost four of their last five series. What's more, the team is 12-15 against teams not named the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... Catcher A.J. Ellis, on the disabled list for a month after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, has begun a rehab assignment at the Dodgers' minor league facility in Arizona. There is no timetable for his return.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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