3 Up, 3 Down: Giants 4, Dodgers 0
September, 9, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- In a season of offensive lows, the Los Angeles Dodgers have sunk to a new one.
They lost 4-0 to Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants on Sunday night, scraping together just five hits. While losing two of three games this weekend, they went 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
Giants fans -- another sellout's worth at AT&T Park -- waved orange flags and chanted "Beat L.A.!" in the ninth inning. The Dodgers have gone 6-9 versus San Francisco this season with just three head-to-head games left.
The Dodgers can only hope the return of Matt Kemp -- probably Tuesday -- can add some zest to an offense that's stuck on dull. The loss all but knocked them out of the NL West race -- 5 1/2 games out with 21 games left -- and cost them a game in the wild-card standings. They trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 1 1/2 games for the second wild card.
Ellis and Ellis. It sounds like a law firm, doesn't it? Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis aren't related, but they share something: They are the only Dodgers hitters having consistently good at-bats. Maybe it's a cyclical thing, but they both seem to be seeing pitches well, laying off balls and swinging at strikes. They combined to get on base five times. That's one way they stand out starkly from the hitters around them. At one point, Juan Rivera took ball four and the umpire had to remind him it was a walk.
Defending. The one thing the Dodgers seem to be doing at a high level lately is fielding. Luis Cruz made a great catch on a foul pop-up, reaching over the railing into the Giants' dugout. Shane Victorino made a tough catch with the sun in his eyes and another running grab in the right-field alley. Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez give the Dodgers a superb right side of the infield. If the Dodgers could just get a little hitting it could go a long way with the way they pitch and catch it.
Relief. Now that rosters have expanded, depth isn't an issue in the bullpen. Even the loss of closer Kenley Jansen for another week or so hasn't been a major problem. Brandon League has stepped back into that role. The Dodgers got more scoreless work out of their bullpen, one of the few areas that seems to be a strength right now.
Over-swinging. It sometimes looks as though every hitter in the Dodgers' order is trying to hit a home run in every at-bat. The situational hitting and ability to get on base have suffered. Nobody epitomizes the hard-swinging ways better than Hanley Ramirez, who hasn't had much of a road trip. He made a brutal base-running mistake Saturday that could have cost the Dodgers the game and he looked lost at the plate, taking a called third strike twice Sunday.
Execution. The Giants know who they are. They don't hit home runs, but when they get runners on, they find ways to move them over. Marco Scutaro is kind of the epitome of their way of doing things. The Dodgers, on the other hand ... just look at their first few innings. Mark Ellis led off the game with a double and was stranded there when Shane Victorino struck out and couldn't advance him. Joe Blanton couldn't get down a good enough bunt to advance A.J. Ellis in the third. The Dodgers don't have to play small ball all the time, but when they do, it helps to execute.
So-so Joe. Sunday couldn't have been easy for Joe Blanton. He woke up not knowing if he would start or get two extra days off. It turns out he got the ball when Clayton Kershaw was scratched with a sore hip. In a Blanton-Barry Zito game, you expect a fairly high-scoring game. That was partially true. Blanton got the Dodgers in an early 2-0 hole and, when that happens, the Dodgers don't seem to have the wherewithal to recover. He's 1-4 in seven starts for the Dodgers.