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08/22/10 9:08 PM ET

Loss leaves LA with frustrating home split

Kershaw fans 11, but first-inning struggles catch up to lefty

LOS ANGELES -- The homestand was at least two wins shy of the manager's hope, and maybe three shy of convincing the world the Dodgers can do this.

The Dodgers got good starting pitching, bad hitting and bad relief pitching again Sunday afternoon -- if that could be put to music, it would be their anthem -- and they dropped the rubber match of a three-game series with the Reds, 5-2, at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles split a six-game homestand and begins a six-game road swing Tuesday in Milwaukee.

"I felt we had to come in here and win five out of six, and we split three out of three," manager Joe Torre said. "We still have to go out there, we still have to maintain the hope and the need. Unfortunately, we can't talk about something as far as moving up in the standings until we can put a streak together."

The Dodgers haven't had a win streak of more than three games since they won four from June 6 to 9.

Clayton Kershaw's Nuke LaLoosh act settled down after the first inning, but it wasn't damning enough that it should've put the Dodgers out of the game. Except Manny Ramirez sat out on Sunday, and the Dodgers' offense reverted after four home runs on Saturday commemorated Ramirez's return from the disabled list.

The Dodgers trailed, 3-2, from the top of the sixth until the top of the ninth, until Jonathan Broxton pitched the final inning for a second consecutive game. Broxton allowed two runs on a full-count, bases-loaded single to National League MVP candidate Joey Votto, who drove in three on the day. That was after Broxton struck out pinch-hitter Scott Rolen on three pitches.

"He was two different guys today," Torre said. "He came in, looked like he was feeling for it, then all of a sudden, he strikes Rolen out and really gets ahead of Votto with very impressive fastballs. And he just couldn't put Votto away."

Torre is resistant to calling Kershaw an ace, and it makes sense as much because of the left-hander's age, 22, as his struggles with the first inning. Kershaw hadn't recorded a perfect first through 25 starts this season, and his 26th was no different.

Two runs came home on a two-out, bases-loaded single from Ryan Hanigan. The inning started with a single from leadoff man Brandon Phillips, who went 4-for-5 to improve his all-time-leading average at Dodger Stadium to .459. In between, Kershaw was as wild as he was overpowering, walking a pair and striking out a pair. The last out in the inning came on a strikeout, too.

"Really [the first-inning damage] hasn't been that bad of late -- today it was," Kershaw said. "What are you going to do?"

Only Votto got to Kershaw again, with his 29th home run of the season to start the sixth.

Kershaw was left in to face Votto in the seventh, with two outs and two on -- both via walk. After a meeting with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw retired Votto on a comebacker to the mound on his 118th pitch. Kershaw struck out 11, one away from his season high and two off his career high. He allowed as many walks, five, as hits.

"To come out and get this one today was huge," said Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who changed speeds masterfully and walked none in seven innings. "Because Kershaw is the best they've got going right now."

One of only two Dodgers hits in the first four innings off Arroyo, Matt Kemp led off the second with his 21st home run of the season. Kemp also homered Saturday night in the Dodgers' 8-5 win, giving him homers on consecutive days for the third time this season.

A.J. Ellis' RBI single in the fifth was the third in a string of consecutive one-out singles from the bottom of the Dodgers' order. Ellis learned before the game that he would be optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Rod Barajas, whom the Dodgers acquired via waivers from the Mets on Sunday. Ellis won't be gone too long; he can return because of expanding rosters. But he responded with the first three-hit game of his career and just his second career multi-hit game.

"I told him, 'You're putting really a lot of stress on me here,'" Torre said.

Both Kemp and Ellis have been putting in extra hours on their swings.

"I've been really hitting a lot of two-a-day sessions before and after BP," Ellis said. "I don't want to say reworking, but we're almost starting from scratch almost."

By the sixth, which Ryan Theriot started with a single, the offense had disappeared. The Dodgers' Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters all went down on strikes, accounting for half of Arroyo's six strikeouts.

"Definitely [running out of time]," Kemp said. "We need to have a great trip."

After the game, Casey Blake told a story about a quote Ramirez had given in 2007 when their teams -- Blake's Indians and Ramirez's Red Sox -- were in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox trailed in the series, 3-1.

"'It's not the end of the world,' basically, is what he said," Blake said. "If you know Manny, he'll make some comments like that where people might think he's off the wall. But if you dissect it a little bit, it's some pretty good advice or a pretty good mind-set to have. You know, it's not the end of the world if we don't win. It takes a little bit of the edge off.

"They came back and beat us three games in a row and went to the World Series."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.