Arizona Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 4.

Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly wipes his brow after Adrian Gonzalez was ejected in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 9-4 loss. (Associated Press photo)

Hold the champagne.

The Dodgers still haven’t figured out this whole playoff-berth-cinching thing in the Don Mattingly era.

Their magic number is still two, and the division title could be theirs by this time tomorrow — before any other team in the majors wraps up a playoff berth — but the Dodgers endured a frustrating evening Wednesday in their first opportunity to clinch the National League West.
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Arizona Diamondbacks 2, Dodgers 1.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched a complete game for the first time since May. (Associated Press photo)

Nick Punto’s dad, Lou, was at Dodger Stadium last week prior to a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lou Punto is a baseball coach himself, and he was sizing up the Dodgers. (I could imagine him doing the same thing for Nick’s 10-year-old Little League team, but that’s beside the point.) He particularly liked how many one-run games the Dodgers were winning — 22-17 through Sunday — and how that was a hallmark of veteran teams.

It was a one-run game when the Dodgers came to bat in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings in Phoenix on Monday. There were veterans galore, but this wasn’t the same team that Mr. Punto came to see a week ago. His son was leading off. A player making his third major-league appearance was batting eighth. The only run the Dodgers could generate came when Yasiel Puig drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in Hyun-Jin Ryu. The way Trevor Cahill was pitching, a bunt single followed by a three-base error seemed about as likely.
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Surprise! Yasiel Puig plays after all, makes final out in Dodgers’ 4-3 loss.

So much for “somewhere between a day and two weeks.”

It took less than a day for Yasiel Puig to return to the field at Dodger Stadium, defying Don Mattingly‘s pregame prognostication and appearing as a surprise pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Puig swung at the first pitch he saw from San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo and grounded into a forceout, with shortstop Brandon Crawford throwing to second baseman Nick Noonan to record the final out of the Giants’ 4-3 win at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

“I was ready just like every other player,” Puig said through an interpreter of his pinch-hitting appearance. “They came to me to hit and I was ready for it. Sadly it didn’t turn out like I wanted it to, but I was prepared just like the other guys.”
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Juan Uribe sets career high with three home runs, Dodgers club six as a team.

Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe went 4 for 4 with three home runs in the Dodgers’ 8-1 win on Monday night. (Associated Press photo)

Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig had a unique way of showing love to Juan Uribe on Monday night, peeling a banana and stuffing it in his mouth.

Uribe almmost exhausted the clubhouse banana supply.
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Cincinnati Reds 3, Dodgers 2.

Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman touched 102 mph on the radar gun again Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

When the Cincinnati Reds visited Los Angeles for a four-game series in July, the Dodgers were starting to get hot. At one point, Aroldis Chapman threw a 102.1-mph fastball and Mark Ellis pulled it into left field for a single. The cushion was thin — the three wins were decided by a total of five runs — but the Dodgers used the series as a launching pad and won 16 of their next 18 games.

Looking at the won/loss column, this series seemed different. Looking closer at the Reds’ three-game sweep — which ended Sunday with a pair of Ronald Belisario sliders in the ninth inning — it was essentially a repeat of that July series. The venue was reversed but the home team had a slight edge again. Chapman threw hard again. Hanley Ramirez homered off Homer Bailey again.

If only Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke didn’t look so human this weekend, it would all seem so normal.
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Cincinnati Reds 3, Dodgers 2.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig nearly collided on this fly ball, eventually caught by Ethier, in the first inning. (Associated Press photo)

Matt Kemp hurt his hamstring. The starting pitcher, Chris Capuano, suffered a mild left groin strain and was done six batters into the game. Dee Gordon was hit in the back of the neck. Yasiel Puig slid awkwardly in his first game back from a stiff right knee.

Then it was time for the third inning.
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Rockies 7, Dodgers 5.

A.J. Ellis, Brian Gorman

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis takes umbrage with home plate umpire Brian Gorman’s reversal of this third-strike call against D.J. LeMahieu in the sixth inning. (Karl Gehring/The Denver Post)

If you were looking for a meaningful takeaway from a Dodgers perspective Wednesday night, there weren’t many in the Colorado Rockies’ 7-5 victory. So we’ll get to the Dodgers later.

If you were running an experiment about the merits of a replay system in baseball, this game was a petri dish full of bad calls.
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Dodgers 10, Rockies 8.

Yasiel Puig baserunning

Yasiel Puig (66) was called out for interfering with Colorado second baseman D.J. LeMahieu on this play in the first inning. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Coors Field is a special place.

Visiting teams are best advised to check their formula for winning at the front gate and pick it up on the flight out of Denver. That also applies to the Colorado Rockies, who have tried every formula in the franchise-building book and have failed. Since Coors opened in 1995, the Rockies have missed the playoffs in 17 of 20 seasons.

There was no recognizable formula for the Dodgers’ win. Their hottest pitcher and position player, Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, were both on the field when Monday’s game began, but both were on the bench by the end of the Dodgers’ 10-8 win. Puig didn’t finish the game healthy and the major-league leader in innings pitched came nowhere close to finishing the game, getting yanked after five innings and 81 pitches. A series of mental errors, physical errors and pitching changes added up to a choppy game.
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Clayton Kershaw’s unusually bad start wasn’t all that bad.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is visited on the mound by teammates and Dodgers assistant athletic trainer Greg Harrel after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Clayton Kershaw dispatched the old “didn’t have my best stuff” line tonight, which is almost plausible.

The 25-year-old left-hander, in the midst of perhaps the best season ever by a Dodgers pitcher, did something he hadn’t done since April: He was pulled before he could complete six innings.

Some other Kershaw streaks of note ended in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs:
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Postgame thoughts: Dodgers 6, Marlins 0.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig scored on an RBI single in the fourth inning by Clayton Kershaw. (Associated Press photo)

Clayton Kershaw handed the ball to Brian Wilson in the ninth inning in a game that began just before 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Otherwise, everything the Dodgers did to the Miami Marlins on Thursday restored a sense of normalcy to their season.

Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings, lowering his major-league leading earned run average to 1.72, and driving in the only run he would need with an RBI single in the fourth inning. The Dodgers scored five more times against the Marlins for good measure, helped by doubles from five different players among their eight hits.

There was a point early in this series when the Dodgers looked mortal and Yasiel Puig looked immature, but that quickly passed. Having Zack Greinke and Kershaw on the mound on back-to-back days will do that for a team.
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