SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers know what the skeptics believe, that they weren't supposed to be in first place in the first place, so nobody will be surprised if their diminishing lead is gone by the end of play Wednesday.
But after catching an 8-0 loss to the second-place Giants that sliced the Dodgers' lead to two games, A.J. Ellis said the morticians preparing to bury the Dodgers should check the calendar.
"Everybody is building this series up like it's a big deal. This is one game," said Ellis. "It's a long season, a long grind. Talk to me in August and September and we'll talk about a big series."
The Dodgers suffered their fourth shutout of the season in their first road game against the Giants this year. Rookie Nathan Eovaldi pitched like a rookie making his first Dodgers appearance in San Francisco.
"If he's going to be any good, he's got to pitch here," manager Don Mattingly said before the game. "I have no real concerns. I look forward to seeing how he handles it."
Previously this year, Eovaldi would pitch well, the Dodgers wouldn't hit and they would lose. In this game, the Dodgers didn't hit and they lost, but Eovaldi was down by seven after two innings. Eovaldi is 0-4 and the club is 0-6 in his starts.
"It's a great baseball atmosphere, a great rivalry, but I didn't feel like there was extra added pressure," said Eovaldi.
While Eovaldi allowed 10 hits in five innings, Giants starter Barry Zito allowed only Dee Gordon's infield single over the first six innings and the Dodgers finished with only five hits. Zito raised his career record to 117-7 when he receives at least four runs of support, even though he was coming off three consecutive losses.
Speaking of losses, the Dodgers have six in their last seven games on this California trip and have lost most of their lead to the Giants in the process. The last time they led by only two games was April 18.
"Considering where we were, it's great to be in this situation," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "There's so much baseball left, but you're where you want to be. It's important even in this point of the season. But it's too early to be looking at the standings."
Eovaldi was the victim of a bleeder, a blooper and a ball off the bag, but couldn't contain the damage in what turned into a 32-pitch, four-run first inning.
Former Dodger Ryan Theriot reached on a one-out infield single that Gordon gloved, but the shortstop tumbled without a throw. Melky Cabrera blooped a single to shallow center and Angel Pagan doubled off the first-base bag for the first run.
"He had a little bit of bad luck in the first," said Mattingly.
Pablo Sandoval then laced a two-run double to right. One out later, Hector Sanchez singled home Sandoval.
Eovaldi walked Zito (0-for-12 coming in) to open the second inning, and that didn't turn out well. Gregor Blanco blooped a single and Gordon fielded Theriot's double-play ball, stepped on second but bounced his throw to first, and runners were on the corners. Cabrera singled home Zito, Pagan singled home Theriot and Cabrera scored on Sandoval's sacrifice fly.
"We couldn't stop the bleeding right there," said Mattingly.
Nine consecutive Giants were retired after that, but doubles by Sandoval and Sanchez added to the lead in the fifth. About the best thing Mattingly could say about Eovaldi is that he regrouped enough to get through five innings and save Mattingly from "blowing up our bullpen."
"It was a good experience for him," Mattingly said. "He's going to be fine. He's not the kind of kid to get rattled. He is a work in progress."
"A tough night," said Ellis. "A couple bad breaks in the first, but after that they made us pay. There were a lot of 1-0 counts. Not able to get first-pitch strikes over and that puts you behind the eight ball. I told Nate on the bench at the end of the game, 'Have a short-term memory.' Start thinking about the Mets [his next opponent]. The last thing to do is start tinkering. He's plenty good enough.
"He's definitely got the composure and makeup. His greatest attribute is Nate's a competitor. The next time he pitches, I expect he'll be the same kid."
The Dodgers' offense has been held to five hits or fewer in five of the last seven games.
"Zito changes speeds and tries not to throw it over if he doesn't have to," said Mattingly. "He's tough to face down seven runs early. We've got to be able to keep it close and make their pitcher work all night long in danger. He didn't have any danger."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.