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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Loaded Dodgers hit bump in the road vs. Crew

Los Angeles has plenty of talent, but that doesn't always guarantee victory

Loaded Dodgers hit bump in the road vs. Crew

MILWAUKEE -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are attempting to restore the greatness, the glory and probably even the mojo of a franchise that is indisputably rich in both tradition and accomplishment.

The talent is there on the 2014 Dodgers roster. Even a goal as lofty as this one seems to be within range.

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There are 14 other National League teams that could look upon the Dodgers' roster and feel, in an honest moment, primarily envy. Just the Dodgers' starting rotation, which leads the Majors in ERA, is enough to send chills through potential postseason opponents.

But this restoration of previous glory is not always a straight-line, linear proposition. There are ups and downs. There are twists and turns. There are bumps in the road. The Dodgers just hit two of those bumps the last two nights at Miller Park.

Friday night the Dodgers had a defensive meltdown by their third-choice shortstop, Justin Turner, in what became a 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Saturday night, the 4-1 score was closer but the loss was every bit as painful. Zack Greinke was starting for the Dodgers. When Greinke, a former Brewer, pitched at Miller Park, his teams had a record of 25-2. That's 25 up, two down.

Greinke, unfailingly honest, was asked Saturday night if he knew why he had been so successful in this park. "Yeah," he responded. "When I was with the Brewers we scored like 11 runs a game."

The Brewers opposed Greinke with Mike Fiers, making his first big league start of the season, in place of the injured Matt Garza. Fiers had a successful run early in 2012 with Milwaukee, but in 2013 he had been hit hard and sent down to Triple-A, where his season ended prematurely when a line drive broke his right forearm.

This was a matchup that was, of course, supposed to be won by the Dodgers. But this is precisely why people shouldn't bet on baseball.

Greinke, the former American League Cy Young Award winner, gave up two home runs and eight hits in six innings, but that was not the real problem for the Dodgers.

"We didn't do anything with their guy," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He came right after us. He didn't seem to be afraid of us."

Fiers, up from Triple-A and filling in for an injured pitcher, gave up a solo home run but only two other hits over eight innings. He was something special.

There is no particular shame in losing a series to the Brewers. They have been in first place in the NL Central since April 5. They now have a record that is nearly identical to that of the Dodgers. But they would be the first to admit that they are not possessed with the depth of talent that the Dodgers have.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was with the Dodgers in an earlier era when they were on top. It was a different Dodgers organization then; a family-owned operation. But it was setting a standard of excellence.

Roenicke, an outfielder, was drafted by the Dodgers in 1977, came up through the organization and played for Los Angeles in parts of three seasons in the early 1980s. He saw the Dodgers organization as something apart from the norm, something above the norm.

"Yes, certainly I felt that way when I played there," Roenicke said. "I think they're certainly one of the elite teams that through the history of this game have been really good. Certainly you look at the Yankees in that way. But it goes way back.

"And [the Dodgers] feel that way. They have an air that they're going to contend every year. I think that's what every team strives for, is to start a season where everybody feels: 'We're going to be in this again.'"

As far as the Dodgers feeling that they can regain that same kind of luster now, Roenicke said, gesturing toward the visiting dugout at Miller Park: "They should. Look at that team over there. I mean, really. Look at that team over there. It's incredible."

That's what the Dodgers' roster says, name by name. It is certainly true that some of these names are not producing at their previous levels this season. But with that starting rotation, the Dodgers still must be regarded as a team with a chance to win anything, everything.

But getting back to the top in contemporary baseball, with a broader base of competition than existed in the Dodgers' previous glory days, is nothing like an automatic process. On Sunday, when the Dodgers start Clayton Kershaw and the Brewers start Jimmy Nelson, the Dodgers will be big favorites again. But that status didn't help them at all Saturday night.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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