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The Existential Angst of the Dodgers

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These are times for an existential crisis at Dodger Stadium. A late-inning 3-2 come-from-ahead loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the 19th loss in their last 25 games, compounded the angst at Chavez Ravine.

"Every loss really hurts you," manager Don Mattingly said. "You feel them all especially when they come together."

Before the game the Dodgers announced that 27-year old starting pitcher Chad Billingsley was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation retroactive to July 8 to make room for Stephen Fife making his Major League debut. Billingsley is scheduled to miss one start and return on Monday in St. Louis.

When asked by a reporter when he first felt the discomfort Billingsley answered, "27 years."

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It was a moment of levity. Actually it was pretty hilarious, but the angst did not go unnoticed.

As the losing continues night after night, the frustration becomes more palpable on Mattingly's brow. I don't know if angst is the right way to describe the Dodgers right now, but there is something off with the team.

This is a team where the current ownership group paid $2.1 billion on a team that Forbes Magazine recently estimated a value of $1.4 billion. This is a team that in the past three games committed eight errors, fell asleep on the mound, couldn't execute a rundown. This is a team that has a dearth of prospects, the major currency for the in-season trade market.

And there they were on Tuesday nightforced to trot out a 25-year old rookie making his Major League debut since they had no other options. Even Søren Kierkegaard would have pulled his hair out.

But there were signs of coming out of the malaise. The rookie Fife was in line to get the win against the two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.

It looked like Doc Halladay was going to be unhittable in the first inning retiring the side in order striking out two. But the Dodgers hit three singles and a double to lead off the second to take the 2-1 lead.

(Let's not mention it was Doc's first start since being placed on the disabled list at the end of May with a lat strain.)

Fife was welcomed to the Big Leagues with Jimmy Howard hitting a leadoff double to start the game who scored on Chase Utley's ground out to give the Phillies the 1-0 lead.

"I just cut a change up to the middle of the plate and he hit it," Fife commented on Howard's double. Fife felt like he settled in fine after that first inning.

"I didn't feel like there was a big rough spot. Obviously I had a couple of four-pitch walks, just probably a little bit of nerves — the game probably sped up on me a little bit. But I feel like I settled in all right."

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When told the four-pitch walks were both against Ryan Howard, Fife seemed to exhale a little.

"I wasn't looking to throw him a cookie, so to walk him on four it is what it is."

For a sinkerball pitcher who pitches to contact, it seemed like a perilous task given the fielding prowess of the team. But Fife was bailed out in the sixth inning by the defense.

With two outs and Howard on second, Hunter Pence lined a single to centerfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp made a strong throw to the plate a little offline. Catcher A.J. Ellis managed to tag a sliding Howard on the shoulder just before he touched the plate for Kemp's second outfield assist of the season. Mattingly thought that was the defining play of the game.

"That's a play that held the right there and got us to the back of our bullpen," Mattingly said.

Everything looked to be going the Dodgers way. Cue the suffering.

In the eighth inning after getting the first two outs, reliever Ronald Belisario went wild walking Chase Utley and hitting Howard and Carlos Ruiz with pitches.

"I don't know what happened," Belisario said. "I tried to throw a strike."

Belisario confirmed that neither fatigue nor pain affect him. "I'm good."

Mattingly went to Kenley Jansen for the four-out save and Jansen promptly gave up a two-run single to Hunter Pence.

"That hurts," Belisario said. "We just want to win."

The Dodgers fall to three games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West after the Giants pasted the Braves 9-0 in Atlanta. And as if all of this ennui wasn't enough, Dwight Howard was among the 53,498 in attendance.

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