Slowly but surely, the Dodgers are watching their once- comfortable lead in the National League West grow smaller.
Los Angeles will try to rebound this evening behind Clayton Kershaw, who hopes to avoid losing a third straight start in the first of four straight games versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Dodgers held a 7 1/2-game edge for the top spot in their division on May 27, but have lost six of seven since and now lead the Giants by only three games for first place.
Not even Kershaw, the 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner, could alter the momentum for the Dodgers in his last start, which came on Wednesday versus the Brewers. The left-hander matched a season high by allowing five runs and his four walks issued over the 5 2/3-inning outing were the most he has yielded in a game this season. He lost a 6-3 decision, giving him back-to-back losses for the first time since Sept. 1-7, 2010.
"It was frustrating," Kershaw told Los Angeles' website. "I threw a lot of pitches and couldn't put anybody away and they had really good at-bats all night. It was just a rough night."
The 24-year-old is 4-3 with a 4.42 earned run average in 11 outings this year and has never before dropped three starts in a row. He did lost three consecutive decisions over a four-start span late in 2010.
Kershaw has also never beaten the Phillies, going 0-4 with a 5.18 ERA in six meetings.
Los Angeles hopes that first victory comes tonight after the club dropped a 3-2 decision in Colorado on Sunday. Nathan Eovaldi pitched 5 2/3 innings and got the loss, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on five hits.
A.J. Ellis made it a one-run game with a two-run homer in the seventh inning, and both he and Tony Gwynn Jr. drove balls deep in the ninth inning only to watch them die at the warning track.
"You see what's going on today, and you really can't get too concerned," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We just have to take care of our business. There is still a lot of baseball to be played. It is way too early to be watching the scoreboard and worry about what is going on somewhere else. You just have to take care of your stuff."
While the Dodgers have maintained their hold on first place despite recent struggles, the Phillies sit last in a tight NL East. Their 5-1 setback to the Marlins on Sunday has them 3 1/2 games behind a trio of teams for the division's top spot.
Joe Blanton yielded five runs on nine hits and a walk in six-plus innings for Philadelphia, which lost its second straight.
Juan Pierre got the Phillies on the board with an RBI single in the eighth inning and the club put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth. However, Marlins closer Heath Bell recorded the final two outs of the game.
"When we get down four, five, six runs, it's hard to come back," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Manuel would normally hand the ball tonight to ace Roy Halladay, but he is out 6-to-8 weeks with a strained right lat muscle. Instead, Vance Worley will come off the disabled list and make his first start since May 11 because of right elbow inflammation.
Worley is 3-2 with a 3.07 ERA in seven starts this season after putting together a solid rookie campaign in 2011 in which he went 11-3 in 25 games (21 starts) with a 3.01 ERA.
The 24-year-old righty has struck out 45 in 44 innings of work this year and faces the Dodgers for just the second time. He did not factor into a 9-8 victory in Los Angeles on Aug. 10 of last season after giving up six runs over four innings.
The Phillies are 9-3 versus the Dodgers since the start of the 2010 season, winning four of six at home in that span.