PHOENIX -- Don Mattingly left Rafael Furcal out of Sunday's starting lineup, giving him a day game off after a night game, then delivered a stirring defense of the slumping shortstop, who is batting .170.

"He may not be the player he was five or six years ago, but that doesn't mean he can't play," said Mattingly.

"Why get on Fukey? I know this is about the bottom line, but I get upset with Fukey-beating. I believe in the guy and what he's capable of doing. I see bat speed. He's just trying too hard. You love that, it's better than not trying. You can't defend the no production, it's right in front of you, but I can defend effort."

Jamey Carroll, in a slump himself, with a .190 average for July, started at shortstop on Sunday.

Furcal, who spent time on the disabled list with a strained oblique, is 3-for-34 since returning on July 3.

"You guys get on Fukey," Mattingly said to reporters, "but he's still got bat speed. Last year [the Mets] were ready to get rid of Beltran. But [hitting coach Jeff Pentland] and I saw he still had bat speed, and he's back rolling and he's big trade talk. Fukey is in the same boat. He's still got bat speed. He's been hurt so much. I can't ever get away from this guy playing with energy every time. He's never not trying."

Mattingly said that the same applies to another struggling infielder, Juan Uribe, who also started on Sunday.

"Juan's had a tough year, but last year was a career year, and it's not going away in three or four months," Mattingly said. "He's got to find it. We can work with him, talk to him, but until he squares up a ball in a game, it's hard to get it back.

"There's something about hitting -- you lose the confidence, and it's not good. It's a confidence game. I can't sit here and say, 'This guy can't do it.' I will come to Juan's defense. He's still working. It's not like [he's saying], 'What do I care?' He's bothered by this."

Mattingly keeping SF set in perspective

PHOENIX -- With a three-game series against the first-place Giants on deck, manager Don Mattingly drew the distinction between knowing his team needs a series sweep and demanding it.

"Obviously, we want to go in there and gain some ground, but you can't go in saying 'sweep,'" Mattingly said. "It would be really nice. If we win the series, we pick up a game. But to go in saying 'sweep,' that's asking a lot."

Of course, trailing the Giants by double-digits, the Dodgers need a lot of wins, but Mattingly said that kind of pressure won't help.

"If you do that, it can get you beat," he said. "You don't want the mentality that if you win two of three, you come out feeling bad. Things can change quickly in a week. We won five in a row, and they won almost every game, and we gained one half-game. But the next time we win five in a row, we could pick up three games. We've just got to try to win every day, but we can't say we have to win every day. That just sets you up for failure."

Mattingly's goal remains reaching the playoffs, as tall a task as that now appears.

"That's the way I have to look at it," he said. "We didn't come into the season to play .500 or finish second. We can make a good run and get to the playoffs. That's the only way I want to feel."

Trade talk swirling around Kuroda

PHOENIX -- Though Hiroki Kuroda's tough luck continued with another well-pitched loss on Saturday night, the trade speculation centering on the right-hander hasn't rattled manager Don Mattingly.

"It's kind of part of the business," Mattingly said of the Trade Deadline talk. "They talk about hired guns that can push a team over the top, but I don't like giving up on anything. I'd like us to win five in a row again and make a run to turn this around."

Nonetheless, the reality is that Kuroda could become the prize in a bidding war that might deliver the Dodgers a quality player or two if they decide to become sellers by the end of the month.

Kuroda has lost eight of his last nine decisions, as the Dodgers scored a total of 15 runs in those eight losses. Mattingly was asked if he feels sorry for Kuroda and his bad luck.

"I don't feel sorry. He did his job," said Mattingly. "I want him to get wins. I want the club to get wins. He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. I feel bad he doesn't get wins, but he pitched well. If it was just him not getting [run support], maybe [his teammates] didn't like him. It's an everyday thing."