LOS ANGELES -- For 7 1/2 games, the Dodgers' homestand offered manager Don Mattingly some hope, despite his team's seemingly insurmountable deficit in the National League West.
They were scoring runs, had back-to-back series victories and had an opportunity to take three straight after beating the D-backs on Friday night.
But the Dodgers blew a three-run lead Saturday and followed that with a discouraging 6-3 loss to Arizona on Sunday that Mattingly said felt much worse than just one negative result among 58 others this season.
He said he felt his team's energy was lacking -- the first time he's felt that way all season. He couldn't put his finger on the symptoms, but it was a feeling he said he had in his gut.
"I don't know [why]," Mattingly said. "It's hard to put your finger on. Is it the Trade Deadline? Is it that we throw 100 pitches in the first four innings? First day game in six? I don't know what it was. Honestly, it's a guess, but it just didn't feel right today."
It's been a whirlwind 24 hours for the Dodgers, who learned Saturday that pitcher Hiroki Kuroda would not waive his no-trade clause and then Sunday morning traded shortstop Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals.
Mattingly said he plans to talk with the players about Sunday's performance, but he won't call a team meeting, as he hopes to make the conversations more personal. The biggest goal, he said, is to make sure the Dodgers continue to play the rest of the season with the same fire they had for the first four months.
"We've got to continue to play with a purpose," Mattingly said. "It could be a long end of the season if we don't play with a purpose."
By trading Furcal to clear room for top prospect Dee Gordon, it seems as if the focus of the front office has shifted toward next season and beyond. Before the game, Mattingly insisted that isn't the case, and said even if it were, it shouldn't matter. There's only one way to play baseball, he said.
Furcal's teammate and close friend, Matt Kemp, acknowledged it felt weird without the veteran shortstop in the clubhouse. Furcal has been a Dodger since Kemp was first called up in 2006.
"It's part of the game," Kemp said. "It always happens this time of the month. We lost a great shortstop, a great friend of mine. I'm not gonna get to hang around him and laugh with him anymore, but he's with the St. Louis Cardinals now."
Kemp said he, too, felt the lack of energy Mattingly described.
"I can't exactly tell you why, but we can't afford having a lack of energy any games because we're behind," he said. "We definitely need to pick it up and figure some things out."
Most of the energy was taken out of Dodger Stadium due to Rubby De La Rosa's struggles on the mound. During his first season in the Major Leagues, the Dodgers righty has shown signs that he can be a dominant pitcher if his control is sharp and he can keep his pitch count down.
For De La Rosa, that's been a big "if."
It took him only four innings to throw 103 pitches, and that's all he lasted while allowing three runs on five hits and four walks. He threw just 61 strikes and allowed back-to-back homers to Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra in the second inning.
"I was looking for my rhythm, especially early in the game," De La Rosa said. "I didn't know what was going on. When I found it, I had 90 pitches."
Other than a Dioner Navarro home run, the Dodgers didn't put up much of a fight against Joe Saunders. The Arizona starter scattered eight hits while allowing two runs in 7 2/3 innings.
Four of those hits came from Andre Ethier, which was a season high for the right fielder. He has had four hits off a lefty in a game only once before in his career -- also against Saunders at the end of last season. But on Sunday, they were all singles, and he was left stranded three times.
Hong-Chih Kuo's struggles continued when the lefty reliever was brought on in the eighth inning and surrendered a two-run homer to the left-handed-hitting Parra. In his last four games, Kuo has pitched two innings and allowed eight earned runs.
Kuo spent six weeks on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder earlier in the season, and hasn't yet regained his form from last year. Mattingly said it isn't Kuo's getting hit hard that concerns him, but rather his inability to throw strikes.
The Dodgers mounted rallies in the eighth and ninth innings, but in both frames they left two runners on base. For Mattingly, the fight at the end of the game was the only encouraging part about his team's mindset on Sunday.
Mattingly's doors were closed longer than usual after the game, and when he met with reporters he consistently spoke of staying focused throughout the season -- no matter what the standings look like.
"We have to make sure we know where we're going," Mattingly said.
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.