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We've kind of danced around it in the past couple of weeks, but now we're outright concerned about the recent performance of the Dodgers. After losing 5-2 to the Braves yesterday, the Dodgers have lost first place in the NL West and now sit behind both the Diamondbacks and Padres. It's disconcerting that the Dodgers were outclassed this week by both the Cardinals and Braves, arguably the NL's two best teams.

"The competition has been tough," Manager Jim Tracy said. "We are playing some awfully tough ballclubs. You do your best to win your fair share against teams of this caliber."

LAist doesn't like excuses. Especially using tough competition as an excuse. The Dodgers want to make the playoffs and play deep into October. Well, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Losing 3 of 4 in St. Louis, and then 2 of 3 to Atlanta at home makes people think you have a second-rate team.

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But it's way too early to write off this team. They are hitting better considerably better than any Dodger team in recent memory. Eric Gagne is back now (and we'll act like those two home runs he gave up on Saturday were an aberration), which means that Yhencey Brazoban can pitch in middle relief and help the Dodgers out of tight spots. Wilson Alvarez is also back and Brad Penny is presumably healthy.

It seems like the main problem with the Dodgers recently has been a lack of consistency. The pitching has been up-and-down at times. The hitters are leaving runners on base at times. But with the exception of their carousel of middle infielders forced to play third base (can we please send Oscar Robles down to Las Vegas?), it seems like all of the pieces are in place. We don't believe for a second that Arizona will win the division, and while the Padres are a legitimate threat, the Dodgers have more talent.

It's a long season, but we'd be lying if this past week or so hasn't made us nervous.