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Dodgers Still Can't Beat the Brewers

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Why can't the Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers? Coming into Tuesday night the Brewers were 20-28 and seven games behind NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds. Yet with their 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, the Brewers clinched the seven-game season series for the second consecutive season.

"They've got good pitching over there," Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly explained. "These guys can throw some arms at you. I know they're a little wounded over there, a lot like us, but it doesn't make them any less dangerous."

The arm the Brewers threw out there was 26-year old Michael Fiers making his first start in the Major Leagues and third appearance overall. The unfamiliarity seemed to dog the Dodgers as what had been their trademark of working the count turned into swinging the bats early in the count.

"He did a great job," Ellis said about Fiers. "He's a guy not that many of us had seen before — a little bit of a different arm angle. He pounded the strike zone. We were behind in the count almost all night long. It's tough to hit that way."

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The only damage the Dodgers did against Fiers was after Ivan De Jesus lined a one-out double in the sixth inning. Andre Ethier whacked a double to right-centerfield to bring home the run giving him a National League-leading 43 runs batted in.

Of course the Dodgers had Nathan Eovaldi who made his first appearance with the Dodgers this season. All Eovaldi did was retire 12 batters in a row at one point. Unfortunately it came after the first inning.

Having missed the first game of the series, I didn't get to experience the fans' abuse of Ryan Braun. Thankfully the bobblehead crowd of 51,137 obliged in the first inning, a couple of serenades of "H!-G!-H!" wafting throughout the park.

It was my professional opinion that Braun didn't mind at all. With Nyjer Morgan on first base, Braun took the first pitch he saw from Eovaldi and scalded it into the right field box seats.

"He hit a good pitch," Eovaldi said. "I left the ball middle away. It was up, but I felt like he hit a good pitch."

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Despite that pitch, Mattingly noticed a marked improvement in Eovaldi in this start from where he was last season.

"Nate used all of his pitches," Mattingly said. "He was able to use his breaking ball, his changeup. He was really good tonight."

This game also marked the return of Matt Kemp to the lineup.

When Kemp was put on the disabled list on May 14 with a strained hamstring, the Dodgers had the best record in the Major Leagues with a six-game lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants.

On Tuesday's return of Kemp, MVP to those at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers had the best record in the Major Leagues with a 6 1/2-game lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants.

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"It definitely shows the character of this team, how good it is, how the chemistry is and how everybody is pulling together and helping each other," Kemp told reporters before the game. "If one person doesn't get the job done the next person behind him steps up and gets the job done. That's what it takes to have a good team."

Kemp's big moment came in the ninth inning. When presented with an RBI situation in the sixth inning, he nubbed a ball right in front of the plate for an out. However leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-1, he knew the game had really started for him.

He battled closer John Axford pitch after pitch, fouling off fastball after fastball. Finally on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Kemp hit a long fly double to left-centerfield to start a rally.

After Ethier was plunked, birthday boy Jerry Hairston, Jr. grounded into a double play. Perhaps the illusions of going 5-for-5 again were just that. It was James Loney's grounder that ended the game exactly 150 minutes after it began.

The Dodgers still have the best record in the Major Leagues, but their lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants is now down to 5 1/2 games.

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Three Stars (as voted by me):
1. Michael Fiers. 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts.
2. Ryan Braun. 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 1 home run.
3. Nathan Eovaldi. 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 1 home run.