LOS ANGELES -- There was a hint of menace in the air Wednesday morning, with the red-hot San Francisco Giants playing at last-place Colorado and the Dodgers giving the ball to spot starter Carlos Frias. Meanwhile, they had to face the Washington Nationals' best pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann.
None of that proved to be much of a problem for the Dodgers, but the issue that won't go away -- an unreliable bullpen -- cost them a prime opportunity and their longest game of the year: 5 hours, 34 minutes. The Nationals survived a battle of attrition and bloated rosters, as the Dodgers lost 8-5 in 14 innings. The Giants lost, too, so the Dodgers remain two games up with 22 to play.
With expanded rosters after Sept. 1, the teams combined to use 50 players, including 18 pitchers. The major-league record for players used in a game is 54.
The Dodgers came back from the brink twice, but they couldn't pull ahead, and the bullpen couldn't withstand the Nationals for long. For the second time in the game, they were down to their final out in the 12th, but Carl Crawford lined a two-run home run over the center-field wall to extend the game a bit in front of a tiny crowd willing to brave rush hour.
With manager Don Mattingly lacking trust in his other options, closer Kenley Jansen came on with two outs in the eighth inning -- about 16 hours after getting the final out Tuesday -- and wasn't sharp. He gave up three runs, including a two-run home run to pinch hitter Adam LaRoche.
But the Dodgers somehow survived regulation time -- by inches. Jayson Werth drifted over to catch what would have been the final out but seemed to lose it in the sun and dropped it, which allowed the Dodgers to tie it in the ninth.
The Dodgers kept wasting chances, though, and Brandon League, one of the relievers who inspires little confidence in tight situations, gave up two runs in the 12th.
How it happened: Justin Turner half-heartedly pleaded his case after an inside fastball from Zimmermann appeared to knick his elbow pad, but the plate umpire, Paul Schrieber, wasn't buying it. After review, the call stood, so Turner stayed in the batter's box. A few pitches later, he hit a towering fly ball to center field that just kept carrying. Denard Span drifted back, but it narrowly cleared the fence for the game's first runs in the seventh inning. Turner has been the Dodgers' hottest hitter for a while now and is batting .373 with 30 RBIs since May 11.
Frias was dominant for six innings, but Mattingly has only two late-game relievers he trusts, so he went to Jansen an inning earlier than usual for the fifth time this year.
Hits: In eight relief appearances for the Dodgers, Frias had a 5.65 ERA, which was only slightly worse than the 5.01 ERA he had as a starter for Triple-A Albuquerque. As such, the Dodgers probably didn't expect him to pitch six shutout innings while making a spot start to give veteran Dan Haren a couple extra days of rest. But Frias rose to the challenge and matched one of the best pitchers in the league to give the Dodgers a chance to muster some runs. You wonder whether he earned another start, at least. Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia haven't exactly been automatic lately.
Misses: As good as Zimmermann is, he hasn't had an easy time with the Dodgers. Collectively, the Dodgers were hitting .324 off him coming into the game. But Zimmerman was very good, and he spotted his mid-90s fastball on the corners and kept the Dodgers uncomfortable in the box. Going into the seventh inning, the Dodgers had managed only four base runners. Hanley Ramirez, who was batting .455 off Zimmerman coming in, went 0-for-3.
Stat of the game: Frias had pitched eight times in relief for the Dodgers coming into the game and had given up at least one run in all but three of those outings.
Up next: The Dodgers are off Thursday before they start a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.