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MIL@LAD: Mattingly on losing tough one-run games

LOS ANGELES -- The stage was set for some old fashioned Matt Kemp heroics on Tuesday night.

He delivered on his part.

Only this time, his teammates, who stepped up admirably to lead the Dodgers to a 9-5 record in his absence, failed to help in the clutch, as the Dodgers fell to the Brewers, 2-1.

With the Dodgers down one in the bottom of the ninth and the fans on their feet, Kemp smacked a fastball from Brewers' closer Jon Axford to left-center for a double after working a nine-pitch at bat.

After Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch following the two-bagger, the usually dependable Jerry Hairston Jr. failed to put down a bunt, forcing him to swing with two strikes, leading to a 4-3 double-play. With Kemp moved to third, James Loney grounded out to short to end the game and secure the Brewers' victory.

"You want to get the bunt down, obviously, and I tried to do it, but bottom line, I didn't do it," Hairston said. "And I compound the problem, the last thing I want to do is ground into a double play, but I did that, too. Some nights, it's not going to be there. It's the big leagues, and you've just got to move on."

While it was hoped that Kemp would resurrect some life into the Dodgers' offense, the ninth inning was another example of the team's bats continuing to go limp in key moments. The loss moved Los Angeles to 2-4 in its last six games, after rattling off a six-game winning streak.

"The last couple of days, we've had trouble scratching for runs," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

A large reason for that on Tuesday was the performance by Milwaukee's rookie starter Michael Fiers, who was making his first-ever start in the Majors.

Fiers worked quickly through the Dodgers' lineup, going seven innings, allowing only five hits and one run with no walks.

"You feel the crowd, and how much they support this team, and especially with Kemp back, they're really excited," Fiers said about the 51,137 in attendance. "For me, it wasn't too tough. I think I handled it decently. I tried not to show too much emotion, but inside I was going pretty crazy."

The Dodgers countered with their own rookie pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi, who was just as efficient for the most part. Called up Tuesday morning to replace Ted Lilly -- who was sent to the disabled list Monday with shoulder inflammation -- Eovaldi also lasted seven innings, giving up only four hits, two runs and one walk, while striking out four and finishing with 90 pitches, 63 of which he threw for strikes.

"Eovaldi's ball-strike ratio, absolutely incredible," said Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke. "We kept watching it. It was sliders, it was changeups, the explosive fastball. That's pretty incredible to do that."

The two young pitchers combined to pitch eight 1-2-3 innings.

However, one mistake erased an otherwise sharp start for Eovaldi.

After Nyjer Morgan started things off in the top of the first inning with a one-out single, the pitcher served up a first-pitch fastball to Ryan Braun, who sent it into the right-field stands.

The Dodgers would have a few opportunities to tie the game, but couldn't convert.

Ethier and A.J. Ellis recorded the Dodgers' first pair of hits on cracked bat singles in the second and fifth, respectively. Dee Gordon moved Ellis to second in the fifth with an infield single, but the pitcher Eovaldi struck out on a seven-pitch at-bat without lifting the bat off his shoulder.

Despite a stalled offense, Mattingly didn't consider pinch hitting in that situation.

"We've got a guy out there who is basically coming out of their Minor Leagues with very little experience," he said. "I've got to believe we're going to put up a couple runs and get back into the game."

With one out in the sixth, Ivan De Jesus got things temporarily rolling with a double down the left-field line. After Kemp weakly hit a ball that landed only a few yards in front of Milwaukee's catcher, Martin Maldonado, Ethier smacked a double to right-center to score the runner and record his league-leading 43rd RBI. However, the one run was all Los Angeles could put together after Hairston grounded out to short to end the inning.

But despite the Dodgers losing in Kemp's homecoming and struggling offensively, the center fielder was glad to be back.

"Exciting," Kemp said, summing up his emotions. "I felt good. It's good to be back with my team. I had some pretty good at-bats. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off."

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