LOS ANGELES -- Things were just getting back to normal for the Dodgers.
Jerry Hairston Jr. came back from the disabled list last Friday and Matt Kemp followed four days later. Juan Rivera is way ahead of schedule, expected to return by the end of the week, and reports have been positive about Juan Uribe.
But just as the Dodgers were starting to gain some semblance of their Opening Day lineup, things quickly fell apart in a crushing way Wednesday.
Running the bases on Andre Ethier's double after a first-inning walk, Kemp re-aggravated his left hamstring pulling into third, forcing him out of the game in the first inning of a 6-3 loss to the Brewers, marking the team's first three-game losing streak of the season.
"We got closer to full strength," manager Don Mattingly said. "And then you take another shot, I think that's a little bit of a blow."
The center fielder, in his second game back in the lineup, eventually scored on the first-inning play, but he wouldn't return, and a DL stint appears likely to follow an MRI exam Thursday.
"I was pretty much close to third base and I just felt it," said Kemp, who added he felt he was 100 percent heading into the game.
Upon entering the dugout, Kemp broke his bat over his knee in frustration, feeling more pain this time than when he originally injured the hamstring.
That bat was greatly missed throughout the rest of the game as ace Clayton Kershaw struggled to put away the Brewers, digging the Dodgers into a hole by giving up two runs in the fourth and three in the sixth.
With Los Angeles clinging to a one-run lead, Kershaw first ran into problems in the fourth, giving up Carlos Gomez's two-run single to left with one out. Aramis Ramirez's double, followed by walks to Rickie Weeks and Cody Ransom, put Gomez at the plate with the bases loaded, and he made Kershaw pay.
Then, in the sixth, things unraveled even more for the reigning NL Cy Young winner. To lead off the inning, Weeks smacked a double down the left-field line and Ransom walked again to put two on. Two consecutive bunts moved Weeks over and scored the second baseman. A two-out single by pitcher Yovani Gallardo scored Ransom and ended Kershaw's night early after he allowed eight hits, five runs and four walks through 5 2/3 innings.
"It was frustrating," Kershaw said. "I threw a lot of pitches and couldn't put anybody away and they had really good at-bats all night. It was just a rough night."
The Brewers added one more run two batters later on an infield single by Norichika Aoki off of reliever Javy Guerra.
But even despite a four-run deficit, it looked like Los Angeles would be able to pull out another signature win without its star center fielder.
Three consecutive singles by A.J. Ellis, Dee Gordon and Ivan De Jesus off Gallardo loaded the bases to start the seventh inning and Elian Herrera came through with a two-run single to right to cut the deficit. But with two on and none out, James Loney struck out and Tony Gwynn, filling in for Kemp, grounded into an inning-ending double play, the Dodgers' third of the night.
"We're playing really good baseball right now," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "They're a good team, a real good team. They have real good hitting, they've pitched great this year, but I've always told the guys, when we play well, when we play our game, I feel like we can play with anybody."
The Dodgers, who still have the Majors' best record, are now riding their longest losing streak since Sept. 13, 2011, looking to right the ship likely without their best player.
The team survived Kemp's first absence over the past two weeks, going 9-5 thanks to a makeshift lineup filled with a mix of veterans and callups. Now, Los Angeles needs to regroup with a road trip to Colorado, Philadelphia and Seattle beginning Friday.
"We've kind of built a little rainy-day fund the way we played early," said Mattingly, who suffered his own leg injury, hurting his right calf before the game, which confined him to the dugout. "Now we've lost three in a row for the first time and we've got a tough trip coming. We have to be ready to play and not feel sorry for ourselves. It would be easy to, but we can't."
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.