Dodgers stuck in mud near finish line

PHOENIX -- Yasiel Puig is back.

Matt Kemp is back, sort of.

Carl Crawford might be back soon. Hanley Ramirez could be days away. Andre Ethier could be right on Ramirez's heels.

But the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking far from healthy as they try to close out the NL West. Kemp pinch hit in the ninth inning -- the only duty he is yet cleared for -- and struck out to end the game in the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

That kept the Dodgers' magic number stuck on 4. It was the team's ninth loss in the past 12 games and fourth loss in a row.

The Dodgers have taken beatings from two hitters in the NL West above all others: San Francisco’s Hunter Pence and the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt.

Of course, it’s a bit more excusable in Goldschmidt’s case, since he’s a bona-fide MVP candidate. Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run about 420 feet to center field in the first inning to get Hyun-Jin Ryu’s night started poorly.

After that, Ryu -- as he normally does -- stabilized. In fact, he did more than that, pitching seven scoreless innings after that, retiring 19 straight batters and allowing just one more baserunner the rest of the night.

Ryu had lost three of his past four starts going into Monday, but three of those qualify as quality starts, so it has been more a reflection of diminishing run support.

Arizona starter Trevor Cahill was cruising right along until he walked Ryu leading off the sixth inning. That sent his outing cascading, and he was out of the game four batters later. Cahill gave up a double to deep center field to Nick Punto and walked Mark Ellis on four pitches.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a fly ball to medium-deep left field, but with Ryu running, third-base coach Tim Wallach didn’t take a chance. That proved wise because Cahill walked Puig to force in a run.

The Dodgers have been struggling in the clutch lately -- as they did the last time they were depleted by injuries -- and reliever Josh Collmenter got Cahill out of the jam by striking out A.J. Ellis and shattering Skip Schumaker’s bat for a groundout.

It’s still worth noting: Of all Puig’s exploits this season, the most surprising might be his willingness to draw a walk. He left spring training without a single walk, but he has 32 walks in 92 games for the Dodgers.