Hours before defeat, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel spoke of the importance of the series opener against the team with baseball's best record and Kershaw on the mound.
"We have our work cut out for us," Manuel said, implying that victory could be even sweeter.
Ultimately, Manuel had to fetch Papelbon from an argument with two umpires once the damage was done. Papelbon was angered by an inside fastball called a ball. He thought it was strike three to Gordon. Instead, the next pitch was stroked for a decisive leadoff triple in the ninth inning.
The Phillies had done enough to render it a tie game through eight. Vance Worley, making his first start since May 11 because of a bone chip in his right elbow, labored through four innings. A makeshift bullpen needed to record 15 outs, and the lefthanded combo of Joe Savery and Antonio Bastardo accounted for 12 of them. Savery had pitched three times in the last 26 days but retired seven of the nine batters he faced. Bastardo wiggled free from danger in the seventh and eighth innings.
They dented Kershaw, but it was not enough. The Phillies had not seen him since 2010, before he won his Cy Young Award and entered the discussion of the best pitchers in the game. Early in his career, conquering the Phillies was an elusive task. He had a 5.18 ERA in six starts, the highest against any team he had faced more than once.
He remained human Monday. When Placido Polanco tagged a third-inning Kershaw slider over the left-field fence, the lefthanded pitcher bent over with his hands on his knees. It was just Polanco's second home run in 240 at-bats, dating from last September.
The scoring ended there. In the seventh, Kershaw barely escaped harm. Freddy Galvis and Jimmy Rollins singled. Polanco floated one up the middle that second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. stabbed. But it rolled away from him, probably far enough to score Galvis, who had stopped at third.
That loaded the bases for Hunter Pence, who promptly bounced out to second. It left him 2 for his last 31 at-bats (.065) with runners in scoring position.
A hole was dug quickly. Predictably, Worley was rusty. The Phillies opted not to send him to the minors for a rehabilitation start mostly out of necessity; Roy Halladay's injury created another hole in the rotation. So Worley started Monday on 24 days' rest on a restricted pitch count.
It required 32 pitches to navigate a shaky first inning, one riddled with close plays that did not go the Phillies' way. Twice, Elian Herrera was involved in a bang-bang play at second. Twice, he was called safe, and he probably was out once.
But Worley did himself no favors. His control was wayward - mostly up in the zone - and he put Herrera on base with a four-pitch walk. Andre Ethier drew an eight-pitch walk. A meaty slider and fastball yielded two run-scoring singles.
That he lasted four innings after the lengthy first constituted a minor miracle. He threw 80 pitches in all. Before the game, Manuel had said Worley was good for about 75 pitches.
After a nine-pitch walk to Kershaw in the fourth inning, it looked as if Worley was fried. Dodgers shortstop Gordon smoked a slider, Worley's 80th pitch, to right, and the ball caught a sprawling Hunter Pence in the heel of his glove for the third out.
Worley waited at the top of the dugout to slap Pence with his glove. He had survived. By the end of the night, the Phillies experienced no such feelings.
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.