Dodgers' series streak snapped at seven

LOS ANGELES -- Winning consecutive series is not a celebrated streak.

It's easy not to realize it’s happening until it’s pointed out, but it is the simply-laid foundation of racking up wins and climbing the standings. The Dodgers found themselves on such a run, but their streak of seven consecutive series wins was busted Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the Dodgers’ second loss in a row, keeping their magic number to clinch the NL West at seven after the San Francisco Giants' victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While starter Mike Bolsinger was charged with all four Pittsburgh runs, three of them earned but all of them in four consecutive innings, the Dodgers' offense was stymied for a second straight game by Pirates pitching.

Francisco Liriano did it Saturday, retiring 16 consecutive hitters at one point. On Sunday it was ace Gerrit Cole who went seven innings and struck out nine. At one point, Cole put down 11 in a row.

“They’ve been good all year long. Cole has been consistent and Liriano was as good as I’ve seen him,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Cole is 97, 98 miles per hour. He works to both sides of the plate. He has changeup and slider command.”

Mattingly was reminded that the Dodgers had a shorthanded lineup Sunday, minus Adrian Gonzalez (stiff back), Justin Turner (knee), Howie Kendrick (rest) and Yasiel Puig (hamstring).

So maybe a down stretch could have been expected?

“A little bit, but it is what it is,” Mattingly said. “You still have to find a way to win games. We had some guys that were down, but that’s what happens. You go play.”

The Dodgers have 14 games remaining in the regular season. The division lead is safe, and aside from four games against the Giants, the Dodgers do not play a series against a team with a winning record the rest of the way.

There is still plenty to play for, however. Clinching as soon as possible allows some of the players some much-needed rest entering the playoffs, with no off-days between now and the end of the regular season. It allows the team to set up its playoff rotation, and there is the home-field advantage race with the New York Mets, the Dodgers’ likely opponent in a National League Division Series.

Now is not a time to go through the motions.

“We gotta still go out there and play hard,” right fielder Andre Ethier said, “and figure out a way to clinch that home-field advantage.

“I’ve seen a lot of teams react different ways, from ones [that] take a deep breath and ones that stay on it. It’s a fine line you have to walk when you get there. As you can see, some of the successful teams in the playoffs the last couple years are ones that had to go all the way through and finish 162 games.”