SAN FRANCISCO -- If the Los Angeles Dodgers had continued to sail through the early portion of their schedule and to score runs as gluttonously as they did on the last homestand, it would have been easier for them to talk their way around the first blossoming mini-controversy of 2015.
It's the story that just won't go away, to the chagrin of manager Don Mattingly for now.
Before the game, Mattingly alternated between cracks in his resolve to stick with Uribe -- he admitted the team won't be "hard-headed" -- and defiance over the notion that Guerrero had earned the job after less than three weeks on the job.
Then, Guerrero went out and kept the heat on. He slugged his fourth home run in 19 at-bats, improved his batting average to .474 and provided one of the few signs of life from the Dodgers' offense in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants that capped a three-game sweep to revive the Dodgers' arch rivals.
Afterward, Guerrero, 28, admitted it's "very difficult," to continue to sit on the bench most nights despite his hot play. Uribe, 36, is batting .250, has just one extra-base hit and no RBIs.
"I would like to play every day, but I'm not the manager," Guerrero said. "If they don't put me in, I have to make the most of the chances I get. I have to respect the decision of the manager and do the most with the chances I get."
In the first two games here, Guerrero's opportunities were confined to pinch hitting. On Tuesday, he lined a double to left field to knock in a run. On Wednesday, he hit a two-run home run that tied the game in the seventh inning off Madison Bumgarner.
The Dodgers got swept here, energizing a San Francisco team that came in with four wins and 10 losses. As close as the games were, what might have happened if Guerrero had gotten five or six more at-bats the way he's swinging it right now? It's not crazy to think the Dodgers might have won at least one of these games, changing both teams' moods as they hit the road.
Mattingly had promised him the Thursday start before the series even started. Now, with the Dodgers arriving in San Diego for another relatively important early-season series, how much Mattingly uses Guerrero will be one of the most-watched story lines.
Justin Turner batted .340 last year, but Guerrero might be a likelier everyday choice because of Turner's history of leg injuries. Also, Guerrero's ceiling is far more of a mystery since he missed most of the minor-league season in 2014 after losing part of his ear in a dugout fight.
Mattingly gave a short answer about Guerrero after the game, but a more revealing one before it. Someone asked Mattingly whether he would consider using Guerrero as his starting third basemen and bringing Uribe in for the latter innings to upgrade his defense. He did something similar with Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Rojas last season at shortstop.
"Where does [Turner] fit in your plan? Does he play," Mattingly snapped. "I know people are chanting for Alex right now, but there are other guys that have probably swung the bat better. J.T. hit .340 last year, leads the league in hitting basically. But now, because he's the flavor of the day, we start talking about somebody else."
He's in the process of becoming the flavor of the month, it would seem, and Mattingly might have to soon decide what kind of palate he's trying to satisfy.