Dodgers certainly not playing with urgency

May, 18, 2014
May 18
5:31
PM PT
PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Dodgers got their only remaining injured hitter, Juan Uribe, back at the beginning of this series. By Wednesday, they figure to have an intact pitching staff when Hyun-Jin Ryu returns to pitch against the New York Mets.

To put it another way, welcome to the no-excuses portion of the schedule.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsDan Haren was part of a Washington Nationals team that made its move too late in the NL East last season. Are the Dodgers doing the same thing?
So, why is a healthy team with the highest payroll in baseball having difficulty finding the right gear, slipping into neutral or a slow reverse every time it fumbles for drive? After Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks -- capping Arizona's first winning home series of 2014 -- there were some hints from the clubhouse that the Dodgers might not be playing with the urgency that defines championship teams.

It's not as if they're just plain awful. At times, they pitch as well as anybody. They're beginning to get production from what was once viewed as a dysfunctional outfield. They've just been mildly bad for the past two weeks, going 5-9 since May 3.

"Until we can grind out wins, we're in trouble, from that standpoint," manager Don Mattingly said. "I think you've got to be ready to play every day, to play with some sense of urgency that every game's going to matter, every game's going to count, that you don't have time to wait. I don't think we can sit around and wait for a run."

About 11 months ago, the Dodgers started their ridiculous 42-8 run that launched them past Arizona and into the playoffs. This team might be more talented than that one and -- so far -- it has played better than the 2013 version. But is it a healthy approach to just sort of shuffle through the early part of the schedule waiting for your superior talent to take over?

Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren played on a team last year, the Washington Nationals, that didn't start its move until it was too late. Washington was widely picked to win the NL East and make a serious run at the World Series. It's one thing to trust your talent, it's another to think that talent alone is going to win games.

The Dodgers managed only seven hits against Arizona pitcher Josh Collmenter and some undistinguished relievers Sunday. So, when Haren made a bad pitch to former teammate Eric Chavez, it wound up costing the Dodgers the game when Chavez jacked it into the stands in the fifth inning.

"I think we're so talented, I think sometimes we just expect the talent to take over," Haren said. "But that said, we really haven't hit our stride yet. We haven't put several games together that were just clean. And we're a month and a half in, a quarter of the way through the season, a long way to go. We're definitely not buried."

They're far from buried, just five games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants. But they have yet to offer a hint they're planning a move.

More times than not, it's either the bullpen or the defense that gets them in some trouble. Sunday, it was the latter, again. The Dodgers misplayed two balls in the second inning to give Arizona an unearned run or they might have had a 3-0 lead after Adrian Gonzalez's third-inning home run and the game might have played out differently.

First, Uribe double-clutched on A.J. Pollock's grounder and threw too late to get him. It was ruled a hit, but it was an easy out if he throws it cleanly. Then, Hanley Ramirez sailed a ball over Haren's head trying to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play. It was Ramirez's seventh error. Only two shortstops have made more.

As Haren mentioned, they have yet to play several clean games in a row. They don't seem to be playing as if the pennant is at stake in these early games. Maybe it will still be there for the taking later in the season, when they finally feel the situation is urgent.

Or maybe it won't.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
20 1.80 228 190
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .298
HRA. Gonzalez 25
RBIA. Gonzalez 112
RD. Gordon 90
OPSY. Puig .867
ERAC. Kershaw 1.80
SOC. Kershaw 228