LOS ANGELES -- Even 55 years after it opened, Dodger Stadium, with its pleasing blue motif, its emerald lawn and the jagged peaks of the San Gabriel mountains looming beyond the outfield wall, still looks like it jumped off a postcard.
It's pretty tough to have a bad day in the place.
But the Phillies managed to do that Sunday.
Yep, it was pretty much a lost weekend for the lads in red and gray. They headed West winners of six straight and were bruised and humbled by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who completed a three-game sweep with a 5-3 win on Sunday afternoon (see Instant Replay).
And if that wasn't bad enough, now the tough part of the trip begins for the Phils. They will spend the next four days at Wrigley Field, facing a powerhouse Chicago Cubs team the won the World Series last year and is built to win again this year.
"Yeah, it sucks," Cameron Rupp responded when the situation was laid out to him. "But, at the same time, we know what we're capable of. We know we're capable of beating good teams. We showed that when we beat the Mets and Washington. We've shown that we can compete with teams, despite what people think. Today, we came back and gave them a fight until the last out was made. That's all you can ask for."
Technically, Rupp is right. The Phils did make things interesting when Odubel Herrera smacked a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning to make it a two-run game. But that was way too little, way too late. The Phils scored a run in the first inning then were held scoreless on just two hits until the ninth inning. That disappearing act by the offense - coupled with another big home run by the bashing Dodgers - was a major reason the Phils lost the game.
"They hit more than we did," manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's what it boiled down to. One thing that they do that we need to continue to work on is that when our pitchers make mistakes they don't miss them and we're missing good pitches to hit. I think that's the easiest way to explain it."
The Dodgers had 13 extra-base hits in the series, including seven home runs the last two games.
On Saturday night, the Phils took a 5-2 lead into the ninth and the ol' shinola hit the fan when the Dodgers struck for three straight homers against Hector Neris to tie the game.
Sunday's game also turned on a homer. Nick Pivetta, who, with the help of two double plays and a fortuitous bounce that turned a double into a ground-rule double thus preventing a run, did a fine job of limiting the damage after allowing 10 baserunners, left the game down just 2-1 after five innings. However, reliever Jeanmar Gomez could not keep the game close. He gave up a leadoff hit in the bottom of the sixth and a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Chase Utley. You know where this is going. The next batter, Andrew Toles, clubbed a three-run homer to make it a 5-1 game.
The struggles that Gomez endured last September have followed him into this season. He has gone from closer to pitching in minus situations. His ERA is 9.72.
Mackanin used Gomez in that situation because he was holding Pat Neshek back in case the Phils got a lead. Neris was unavailable.
Toles hit a 2-0 pitch - a sinker that didn't sink - from Gomez.
"They don't miss mistakes," Rupp said. "If you go look at the balls they hit out of the ballpark, go look at how many quality pitches they hit hard. Not many. They don't miss mistakes. They've got a lot of big-league hitters over there that have been around for a long time and they're good. You just can't make mistakes."
Most of the mistakes were made by the Phillies' bullpen, which recorded an ERA of 9.00 in the series.
"I won't use the word worried," Mackanin said in reference to the bullpen. "I think I'm more concerned. I think we're going to get it together once our rotation is set in another week or 10 days and these guys start giving us the innings they're capable of. Our starters, I believe, are going to give us enough innings to keep us in games. We just need to get to the seventh, eighth and ninth."
Pivetta managed to keep the Phils in the game. Despite nine hits and a walk, he only gave up two runs in five innings. And who knows, things might have turned out differently if Rupp did not get picked off second after leading off the fifth with a double in a one-run game.
"I was real happy with Pivetta, his debut at the major league level," Mackanin said. "He pitched himself into some trouble but got out of it and limited the damage, gave us an opportunity to win the game.
"He threw a few too many pitches, but for the kid's debut - outstanding."
Pivetta, filling in for injured Aaron Nola, will get another start when the Phils return home Friday.
In the meantime, the Phillies go from the frying pan to the fire, a lost weekend in Dodger Stadium to four in Wrigley Field.
Keep the ball down, boys.