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LAD@CIN: Fife uses quick reflexes to snag comebacker

CINCINNATI -- The Dodgers watched the Reds celebrate their latest National League Central title on the infield Saturday, nobody sitting stiller or watching longer from the visitor's dugout than Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers had just been shut out by the Reds, 6-0, and again trail St. Louis by three games for the last NL Wild Card spot with only 10 to play. And San Francisco beat the Padres, officially eliminating the Dodgers from contention for the NL West title.

Kershaw and management, meanwhile, had the night to consider whether he would grit through hip pain and make a Sunday start, symbolically a last stand for the Dodgers' season.

"Right now, we haven't changed anything. [Aaron] Harang is the starter tomorrow," said manager Don Mattingly, who before the game said Kershaw was "still in play" as a possible starter. "Nothing else to do but say Harang is the starter right now."

Whether it's Kershaw on the mound or Harang on short rest Sunday, it won't matter with the kind of offense the Dodgers again put forth.

Backed by homers from Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, Reds starter Mat Latos didn't allow a runner past first base as the club that spent freely to load the lineup with proven run producers was blanked for the 15th time this year.

"I thought it was the best I've looked all year," said Latos, 13-4. "I'm still an ugly cat, but I still thought I pitched great. I feel good and I'm excited. I'm ready for the playoffs."

Neither Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez nor Juan Rivera got a ball out of the infield while going 0-for-11 with two double plays.

"It's the same story for us," said Mattingly, whose team has lost 11 of its past 16. "I'm not really at wits end. It's frustrating we can't scratch for runs."

Since peaking with a 7 1/2-game lead May 27, the Dodgers have gone 46-59, lost 18 games in the standings to trail the Giants by 11 and have scored fewer than three runs in 43 of those 59 losses. Before vs. after the trades, the offense has shown little difference.

"It's mind-boggling," said catcher A.J. Ellis, himself in an 0-for-28 spiral of a slump. "We have really professional, quality, Major League hitters and we just can't string anything together and that's the name of the game, to bunch baserunners. We get hits here and there, but they seem scattered throughout the course of the game."

Dodgers rookie pitcher Stephen Fife, in his fifth career start, beat himself up after allowing two runs over five innings. A Dodgers starter hasn't been credited with a victory since Josh Beckett on Sept. 1.

"I kind of failed the team because I didn't keep us in it," said Fife, learning fast that this offense provides its pitchers no margin for error. "If we struggle at the plate, I've got to put up zeros. It's my fault; no excuses for that."

Ellis said the pitching staff is the last direction fingers should be pointed.

"Without them, we wouldn't even be close at all," he said. "They could have tried to put zeros up every inning and that sometimes leads to bigger innings. But they've stayed the course, did the job exactly what's been asked to do, consistently, night in and night out."

Defense kept the Reds off the scoreboard the first three innings, each play with two outs. In the first inning with a runner on second base, center fielder Kemp fought the sun and wind to catch Todd Frazier's fly on the warning track.

Fife saved himself with two out and two on in the second as he reflexively snagged Latos' liner back at him. In the third with a runner on first, Andre Ethier reached up and caught Frazier's drive at the top of the fence.

Bruce came up with a solution by going over the defense, launching the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth inning over the right-field bleachers, an estimated 443 feet.

Fife was in trouble again in the fifth with two on and two out and didn't escape. Frazier singled to left to score Phillips from second base, the inning ending with Frazier caught in a rundown. Phillips added an insurance run with a solo homer off Matt Guerrier in the seventh inning.

The Reds broke the game open with three runs in the eighth inning off Jamey Wright, who threw away Chris Heisey's sacrifice bunt and allowed a two-run single by Zack Cozart.

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