The wrong side of momentum

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
11:35
PM PT
Dee GordonJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDee Gordon is out trying to steal second in the seventh inning after Skip Schumaker applied the tag.

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp took a good five minutes hunched over at his locker stall, painstakingly untangling his gold chain while about a dozen members of the media waited to talk to him Thursday night.

If only Kemp and the Los Angeles Dodgers could find a way to untangle why they suddenly can't hit, maybe this season would have a little life left to it.

It came on so suddenly, so severely and has been so all-encompassing that nobody really knows what to say about it. The doors to the Dodgers' clubhouse stayed closed for about 15 minutes after the their 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, but at this point, does anybody really care what anybody said in a meeting? The only statement the Dodgers can make right now is to their fans and it involves scoring more than a few runs one of these nights.

It's the same game every night. The Dodgers haven't scored more than three runs for eight straight games. They're stuck spinning a wheel that only has four numbers: 0, 1, 2 or 3. If a Dodgers pitcher has a mediocre night, it's over. If they're only good, they've got a sliver of a chance.

"One run's not going to win games when you play teams like this. We've got to do a better job of scoring runs," Kemp said. "I'm not baffled. In baseball, people go through times when you don't hit. It just so happens really none of us are hitting."

There are the occasional contributions from the fringes. Luis Cruz has done some good things. The Ellises (Mark and A.J., no relation) have been sporadically effective. But the players who cause long lines at autograph sessions have been in a collective slump, turning the middle of the order into an empty lot, wind howling through it.

This series represented the best remaining playoff race in the National League, but it also involved two brutally cold teams. In Game 1 of the ice bowl, the Cardinals warmed up just a tad, while the Dodgers stayed stuck on lifeless. Now, it's desperation time for the Dodgers. Technically, they don't have to win the next three games, but if they don't, it would be surprising to see them playing meaningful games in a few weeks.

The Cardinals, who lead the Dodgers by two games in the wild-card standings, have a massive edge in the strength of the teams' remaining schedules.

The Dodgers weren't shy about building this series up. Now that it has started so poorly -- and in such familiar style -- they have to figure out what it means. The end of Don Mattingly's playing career helped launch the rebirth of the Yankees' dynasty and he coached under Joe Torre in New York as they made the playoffs every year from 2004 to 2007.

This isn't a familiar position for him. It's not a comfortable position for him, the Dodgers having gone 1-7 just when things started getting interesting.

"You feel the thing kind of getting to a point where the games keep going down. I haven't really been in a situation where you struggle down the stretch," Mattingly said. "I've been on a lot of clubs, and around a lot of clubs that have played really well down the stretch.

"It's different when you're getting on this side of the momentum."

Normally, momentum is fickle in September, but it has been pretty consistently knocking the Dodgers flat all month.

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

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.301 13 59 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 18
RBIA. Gonzalez 90
RD. Gordon 73
OPSY. Puig .882
WC. Kershaw 16
ERAC. Kershaw 1.73
SOC. Kershaw 194