3 up, 3 down: Angels 8, Dodgers 5

ANAHEIM -- Asked before the game about his team’s struggles with interleague play this year -- the Dodgers entered Friday’s tilt in against the Angels with a 5-7 mark after going 6-9 a year ago -- manager Don Mattingly deflected concern. Toss out the three-game sweep up in Oakland, he said, and it’s really not that bad. (In that spirit, he should toss out the other four losses and then the LAD’s mark would look outstanding!)

After the first of this weekend’s set against the Angels, if form holds Mattingly might have two series to toss out. The opening inning and a half came with promise before, after which the Dodgers were overwhelmed by their hosts, losing 8-5. Mike Trout homered and scored twice for the Angels, who had multiple hit games from Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales, Alberto Callaspo, and Erick Aybar.

Chad Billingsley, staked to a five-run lead, couldn’t hold on and took the loss, falling to 4-6.

The Good:

Fast start. The Dodgers just finished a series in Oakland in which they scored two runs in three games ... and shock of all shocks lost each one. Friday, it took four batters for them to best that output against Dan Haren. After Dee Gordon bounced out pitcher–to-first leading off the game, Jerry Hairston followed with a line-drive single past Aybar at short, then Andre Ethier laced a single to right. Former Angel Bobby Abreu re-introduced himself to the Orange County crowd with a bomb into the stands in right, so obviously gone from the crack of the bat Hunter barely moved.

The Blue missed a chance to do more damage when after walks to James Loney and Adam Kennedy, A.J. Ellis popped out ending the inning. Still, they’d coaxed 25 pitches out of Haren and the three-run outburst felt like 30 given their struggles of late.

Ethier. He was 1-for-Oakland, and entered the game hitting only .171 in June (12-for-70), but Friday Ethier was rock solid at the plate. Three singles in four at bats, plus a run scored. He also drew a ninth inning walk against Ernesto Frieri, giving the Dodgers a little ray of hope at the end. Defensively, he ended the fifth with a spectacular play against the right-field wall, hauling in a rocket off the bat of Howie Kendrick likely saving two runs and keeping the Dodgers within spitting distance. Juan Rivera also had three hits.

Little things. Despite Tony Gwynn Jr. started the second with a walk, then stole second. Gordon then pulled an 0-2 splitter from Haren to Albert Pujols at first, moving Gwynn to third. Against a pulled-in infield, Hairston went inside-out and shoved a ball past Pujols at first to score Gwynn. If Gordon doesn’t advance Gwynn, Hairston’s ball is likely a putout at first, giving the Dodgers two outs and likely ending the inning before Rivera could drive Hairston home with a single past a diving Callaspo at third. Kennedy made a great play in the first, barehanding a bunt from Trout and getting the ultra-fast Angel at first. In the sixth, Kennedy kicked in with another strong defensive play, blocking third base from Aybar after the Angels shortstop led off with a double and tried to advance on a sacrifice attempt by catcher Bobby Wilson.

The Bad:

Billingsley. Just when you think the wheels on the bus are going round and round again, they come completely off the axels. After a tremendously awful May in which he went 0-3 and opponents hit a robust .328 against him, Billingsley kicked off June allowing only two earned runs in his first 14 innings. But there was slippage in his last start (4 ER in 6 IP June 16 vs. Chicago White Sox), and Friday the Angels batted him around like a piñata. 10 hits over five innings, six runs and a walk. Only Either’s snag on Kendrick kept the damage from being worse.

Slow finish. Five runs is five runs, and by Dodgers standards might be considered an eruption. Still, they all came in the first two innings, after which the Blue couldn’t scratch out another. The final seven innings saw the Dodgers hit into a pair of double plays, including one from the super speedy Gordon. Only twice they advanced a runner as far as second base, one coming in the ninth when Ethier took second on defensive indifference after his ninth inning walk. When indifference becomes an integral part of a team’s attack, things aren’t going well.

Bottoming out. Hairston, Ethier, Abreu, and Rivera pulled their collective weight, but below them the Dodgers had little support, a major reason they couldn’t produce after the second. The 6-9 spots in the lineup combined for three hits in 13 at bats, and only one -- a blooper from Elian Herrera pinch hitting for Loney in the seventh -- came after the third inning. All but five of the Dodgers’ 18 LOB’s came from the combination of players in those spots, and then Gordon at the top of the lineup.