Stuck in nowhere land, but seeing the light

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers played a competitive -- and, at times, cantankerous -- series against the first-place team in their division this week.

When it was over, when the teams had showered and changed, gotten on their buses for the airport and left the testosterone behind, the Dodgers' plight only deteriorated a little bit more.

The angry moments came Tuesday, when the benches cleared twice, punches were thrown and the stakes elevated. Wednesday was more humdrum, but far from lifeless, the teams fighting for and surrendering leads, the Dodgers' depleted lineup, finally, unable to keep pace in an 8-6, 12-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Manager Don Mattingly says he thinks hope isn't as far off as it might seem.

Hanley Ramirez and A.J. Ellis could both be back Friday. Matt Kemp and Chris Capuano probably will return next week. Before long, the Dodgers might be healthier than they've been all season. And now they have Yasiel Puig, who seems to have withstood his first brush with the Dodgers' perilous injury luck. He was scratched from Wednesday's starting lineup because of a sore right shoulder but played late and made a cannon throw from right field. It looks as if Puig is OK, though he has declined to speak with reporters the past two nights.

And, now what? At times, Mattingly has seemed beaten down this season. Now, he genuinely seems to think his team -- once it gets reinforcements -- could be nearing a corner.

"We've got a chance to get on a roll, because we've got the pitching to do it," Mattingly said. "Once you put runs on the board consistently, we've got a chance to rattle off some games. If we play with this attitude all the time, I think we've got a chance."

The Dodgers won the game they brawled in, but lost the other two in agonizing fashion. Wednesday, they fought back from a 3-0 hole with a depleted lineup before the struggling relievers in their bullpen frittered it away.

Ronald Belisario, the Dodgers pitcher who said before the game that hostilities with the Diamondbacks over Tuesday night's brawl are not "done," gave up the decisive runs. The Diamondbacks seemed to relish beating the Dodgers and, possibly, Belisario after all the emotions of the last couple of days. Several of their baserunners in the 11th inning looked to the Arizona dugout and did their blow-dart gesture.

They certainly put a dart in the Dodgers, who were looking to gain ground behind their three best starting pitchers and instead fell to 8 1/2 games back in the NL West, tying their biggest hole of the season.

The Dodgers fought hard throughout the series, but Arizona fought better, largely because that team isn't torn apart with injuries as the Dodgers are.

Lost in all the emotion of the day and the late action was Kenley Jansen's tidy work in the ninth inning. In these trying times, the Dodgers appear to have found the right man to be their closer. Jansen had a clean inning, striking out two. He has retired the last 14 batters he has faced, eight by strikeout.

Hyun-Jin Ryu wasn't sharp and Arizona had action in every inning he pitched, but he got some key outs and limited the damage from 11 hits to just three runs. Arizona scored three times on four straight hits in the fourth, but Ryu got a big strikeout on Cliff Pennington with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth.

The Dodgers seemed to suddenly figure out one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, Arizona's young lefty Patrick Corbin, who came in with a 9-0 record and 1.98 ERA. The Dodgers came up with five straight hits after two were out to score four runs in the fifth. Ryu lined a ball to right field that Gerardo Parra dove for and missed. Ryu, a hefty fellow, huffed and puffed all the way to third for a triple.

The Dodgers fielded a depleted lineup after Puig tested his sore right shoulder in batting practice and was ruled out of the lineup. With Jerry Hairston Jr. at cleanup and Juan Uribe hitting fifth, the Dodgers played with emotion. After Adrian Gonzalez’s fifth-inning RBI single, he demonstratively clapped his hands together over his head, a rare show of emotion from the normally stoic first baseman.

Arizona tied the score off reliever Chris Withrow, making his major league debut, in the seventh inning. Withrow, a former first-round draft pick, got two quick outs, using a fastball that touched 99 mph, but allowed four straight baserunners.