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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Paco Rodriguez says arm feels “great,” but seeks consistency amid struggles.

Paco Rodriguez

Dodgers pitcher Paco Rodriguez said he works on his mechanics every day. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers added left-handed pitcher Onelki Garcia to their major-league roster Wednesday, in part to give southpaws Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell a breather out of the bullpen every now and then.

Coincidentally, Rodriguez and Garcia were practically inseparable in right field Wednesday afternoon while the Dodgers took batting practice. Rodriguez said he was showing Garcia the ropes, so to speak. More details of the conversation between the two 2012 draft picks will appear in tomorrow’s editions.

As for his own left arm, Rodriguez said it’s doing “great.” The numbers show otherwise: In his last five appearances, Rodriguez has faced 16 batters, allowed five hits and walked four (a .563 opponents’ OBP).

One theory for Rodriguez’s struggles is that he’s a victim of overuse. The 22-year-old is tied for the team lead in appearances (70) with Ronald Belisario. But his 51 innings pitched are less than the 88 ⅓ he pitched between college and the professional ranks — including the final 6 ⅔ for the Dodgers — in 66 games in 2012. He insists that the extra four appearances this year, not including an additional 12 spring-training games, haven’t caught up to him.

“My body’s been feeling fine, I’m just a little inconsistent,” Rodriguez said. “My mechanics could be wrong.”

Rodriguez has an unusual delivery — he pauses with the ball behind his head before whipping his arm around — which has been attributed to much of his success. Is it a problem now? That’s been a point of daily discussion with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

“We just talk about it. … It’s just a matter of being consistent and bringing it every day,” Rodriguez said.

“At the end of the year everybody’s tired. It’s all about mindset, how you approach everything.”

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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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Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow made an impression in his debut game.

Chris WithrowChris Withrow went from a minor-league starter to a major-league reliever, a jittery ball of nerves to a statistic, booed briefly when he gave up the game-tying run in the seventh inning Wednesday then golf-clapped off the Dodger Stadium mound following his major-league debut.

A whirlwind, to be sure.

“It was still a lot of fun,” the 24-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Definitely to get out there and get my feet wet was an awesome experience. I wish my results were a little better. When you come into a game, it’s 4-3, you want to hold the lead. I wasn’t able to do that so i didn’t get my job done.”
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Dodgers WBC update: Ramirez, Dominican Republic top Punto, Italy.

Hanley Ramirez

Italy, the Cinderella team of the World Baseball Classic, almost did it again.

The Dominican Republic trailed Italy 4-0 in the second-round opener for both teams Tuesday, before clawing back to win 5-4 in Miami. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez‘s sacrifice fly tied the game 4-4 in the seventh inning and Nelson Cruz‘s RBI single sealed the Italians’ fate. Ramirez finished 1 for 2 with a walk and a single in four plate appearances.

Ramirez played the entire game at third base, with Jose Reyes playing shortstop and Erick Aybar DHing.

Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto reached base in three out of his four plate appearances, scoring one run and driving in another.

Ronald Belisario, whose Venezuelan team was eliminated from the tournament over the weekend, arrived in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.

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