3 up, 3 down: Giants 4, Dodgers 1

LOS ANGELES -- The one thing you can't afford to do in a big series is get swept, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have backed themselves into a corner by losing the first two games of their most important series yet.

They lost to the San Francisco Giants 4-1 Tuesday night, and they need to win Wednesday's series finale -- against Matt Cain -- to avoid getting swept at home again and falling 2 1/2 games back in the NL West.

The Good:

Progress report. Matt Kemp had some of his healthiest at-bats in a week. He hit two balls hard to right field, a good sign, and a one-hopper to the third baseman. Then the futility ended in the ninth, with Kemp's line drive to left snapping an 0-for-21 slump. Kemp drove in the Dodgers' only run with a sacrifice fly. As his frustration mounted, so did the Dodgers', but Tuesday looked to be a step forward.

Holding it down. A rally was there for the taking for a second straight night, in part due to good relief. Dodgers relievers confined the damage to what Joe Blanton had caused with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Especially with hard thrower Rubby De La Rosa back, the Dodgers seem to be in good shape in their bullpen.

Return engagement. Adam Kennedy, at age 36, isn't really a guy you think of as an impact player. He has one home run this season and came into Tuesday batting .255. But Kennedy has some traits that could be appealing to the Dodgers as they engage in this pennant race. He has a history of producing in big games and plays solidly at three positions. Kennedy made his first start since coming off the disabled list and was the only Dodger with more than one hit.

The Bad:

Blah-ton. In 21 innings with the Dodgers, Blanton is 0-3, has a 7.71 ERA and has allowed 28 hits and nine walks. It's too early to pronounce the waiver trade that brought him here from Philadelphia a bust, but considering the Dodgers are paying him more than $2 million to do these things, you certainly can't call it an immediate success. Most telling might be the walks. He had just 18 in 133 1/3 innings with the Phillies. Maybe he knows his stuff isn't good enough to get guys out, so he's afraid to throw it over the plate.

Discomforts of home. The Dodgers seem to play with more edge on the road. They're 14-6 in their past 20 road games and 5-11 in their past 16 home games. That's not only strange, it's discouraging since they play their final six games in Los Angeles. The offense is the main culprit. The Dodgers have scored one or no runs in three of their past four games at Dodger Stadium. Maybe they should stay in a hotel when they're in town.

A reach. The game pivoted on the Dodgers' sixth inning. Tim Lincecum was losing it fast, with the Dodgers' first four batters getting on base. But third-base coach Tim Wallach waved catcher A.J. Ellis around third on Shane Victorino's single up the middle and Angel Pagan easily threw him out at the plate. Considering the Dodgers had gotten nothing going up to that point, Wallach probably was just trying to force the action. But with nobody out and the Dodgers' big bats soon to come up, it seemed a tad aggressive.