For the first time since May, the Dodgers got swept in a three-game series and what matters worse that all three losses at Great American Ballpark by one run. Saturday and Sunday featured walk off hits by the Reds’ Todd Frazier and Ryan Hanigan and although the three losses will have little impact on the Dodgers’ making the playoffs, this was the Dodgers final regular season series against a bona fide playoff opponent.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Reds are a good team, no doubt, their 3.39 team ERA is fifth best in the majors. However, the Dodgers should be able to manage more then two runs on a given night and it was frustrating to watch them miss opportunities.  Maybe some guys are worn down as the season wraps up, perhaps others have taken their foot off the gas as a playoff berth is on the horizon.  Here’s a look at some of the production from the Dodgers regulars in the series.

Adrian Gonzalez: 5-13, all singles

Yasiel Puig: 2-11, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 4 K’s

Hanley Ramirez: 5-13, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI

Andre Ethier: 0-11, 4 K’s

Carl Crawford: 2-13, 1 2B, 5 K’s

Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig drove in six of the Dodgers’ seven runs in the series and the timely hitting and balanced offense that carried the Dodgers in August, wasn’t there in Cincinnati.  This is where things get tricky for Don Mattingly as he tries to manage keeping guys fresh and rested for the playoffs and keeping them sharp for the rest of the season.

However, with too much rest and the Dodgers might not be ready to kick it into high gear for the playoffs as the Reds were the more desperate team in the series and it showed. But, that’s not to say, that this won’t get the team more focused on playing well down the stretch since the veterans on the team know that this series represented something bigger on a national scale.

BULLPEN

The Dodgers bullpen took the loss in all three games this weekend and it’s not to see that they pitched horribly, but they haven’t looked like the lights out unit that has shut down the opposition recently. On Friday, after recording only five outs, Chris Capuano had to leave the game with a groin strain.

Six Dodgers relievers came in to pitch the rest of the game and Peter Moylan escaped the second inning, allowing Stephen Fife some time to warm up and pitch two innings of one run ball. With the score 2-1 Dodgers, J.P. Howell came in for the fifth inning after Fife walked Cincinnati pitcher Mike Leake to lead off the inning. Shin-Soo Choo singled, but then Brandon Phillips grounded into a double play and with Choo on second, Joey Votto came up and crushed a J.P. Howell pitch over the wall in left-center.  This gave Cincinnati a 3-2 lead that would hold up.

Chris Withrow pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh while Paco Rodriguez and Brian Wilson combined for a scoreless eighth. Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman closed out the game by striking out Puig, Gonzalez, and Ramirez, consistently hitting 100 mph on the gun.

Zack Greinke pitched six innings of two-run ball Saturday afternoon and Paco relieved him in the seventh and immediately relinquished the Dodgers 3-2 lead. Rodriguez gave up a one-out single to Choo who later scored on a double by Cesar Izturis. Ronald Belisario relieved Rodriguez and pitched a scoreless inning and a third.

Howell redeemed himself by pitching a scoreless ninth however, it was the beard who let the Dodgers down in the tenth inning. Wilson walked Ryan Ludwick to lead off the inning and base-stealing phenom Billy Hamilton pinch-ran for Ludwick and promptly stole second. Todd Frazier would single home Hamilton for the walk-off 4-3 win.

Same story on Sunday. Seven brilliant innings of two run ball from Clayton Kershaw and then a perfect eighth from Withrow that included two strikeouts. An overworked Belisario came in for the ninth and ironically, Frazier led off the ninth, but he popped out. However, Zack Cozart singled and Hanigan smashed a double to score him and give the Reds the 3-2 win and the sweep.

There’s not too much else to take from the series. It was three straight one-run losses to a really good team.  Often times in baseball, the team that wins in the playoffs is not the best team, but the hottest team.  The Reds have been playing more meaningful games lately than the Dodgers have and they were sharper.

The Dodgers will look to regroup Monday at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Although the D’Backs are 11 games back of the Dodgers, there’s quite a bit of bad blood between these two teams and I’m sure there’s nothing Arizona would like more than to extend the Dodgers losing streak. Ricky Nolasco will start Monday looking to extend his six game win streak and  the DBacks will send Randall Delgado to the hill.

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In case you missed it, be sure to find out more about Matt Kemp’s rehab.

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