Still waiting for the grit to kick in

LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly might have been better off waiting until his team was about to play the Miami Marlins before making those comments.

He urged his Los Angeles Dodgers to show more fight right before they got to the toughest neighborhood in town. Two of their next five series were coming up against the best teams in baseball, St. Louis and Atlanta. Another was against baseball's hottest team, the Los Angeles Angels.

So, the fact the Dodgers are 2-2 post-rant might not tell us all that much about their grit, toughness, tenacity, pluckiness or whatever you want to call it. It's in there, they say. It's just waiting for a poke.

"There's a different feel around this place," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "After Don's comments and the way he addressed us and the situation, I think we feel there's a bit more fire."

The Dodgers are certainly not playing their worst baseball of the season. They didn't exactly kick it around in a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday. They just got a less-than-dominant outing from Clayton Kershaw and struggled to rally against the Cardinals' string of hard-throwing relievers. Forgivable crimes, those.

But what's slightly more troubling is their inability to rally as innings dwindle.

They have yet to win a game they've trailed entering the ninth inning. They have yet to win a game they've trailed entering the eighth inning. Heck, they have yet to win a game they've trailed entering the seventh inning.

They're 0-17 when trailing after six. Mattingly said he didn't realize that, but it must have led to the impression that his team lacks fight.

"That's not good," Mattingly said. "We've had our chances in these kinds of games, too, I think."

Personally, I don't fault Mattingly for letting Kershaw bat in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and Matt Kemp on the bench, tied at three. Have you been watching Kemp's at-bats lately? Plus, things haven't usually gone well for the Dodgers this season when they try to protect leads over three innings. Plus, Kershaw is Kershaw.

"It was just kind of that he's our guy," Mattingly said.

Every Mattingly failed gambit looks more obvious, because his team can't break through late to turn sad endings happy. Eventually, the Dodgers will need to capture a little of that magic or they can forget about October. They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning, but Trevor Rosenthal struck out Ellis with a 100 mph fastball and Skip Schumaker with a 97 mph fastball. What could have been a spirit-building rally fizzled, yet again.

Now, the Dodgers are left to try to get some traction against a team that's rolling downhill. Their next four games are against the Angels, who have won eight straight.

"There's always a sense of urgency. You've got to win," Kershaw said. "That's the name of the game."