Ups and downs: Reds 6, Dodgers 0
September, 22, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
It's not that the Dodgers aren't going to be involved in any clinching parties. It's just that they probably won't be their own.
For the second time on this road trip, the Dodgers had to watch a team lock something up right in front of them. This time it was the Cincinnati Reds' clinching the NL Central with a 6-0 win, the Dodgers' offense once again missing in action. The Washington Nationals clinched a playoff berth by beating the Dodgers two days ago.
It was another costly loss. The Dodgers, who have just 10 games remaining, fell to three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card standings.
More downs than ups today, that's for sure.
Spot duty. It's like a broken record. Good: pitching. Bad: hitting. Stephen Fife has been thrust into some pretty important games by a hip injury to ace Clayton Kershaw and he has done better than the Dodgers could have expected. Fife, 25, might not be an elite prospect, but the Dodgers would be foolish not to consider him in their plans next season. They know he can handle the pressure of pitching in big-time games. Now, if they could only get him a little run support.
Power outage. Adrian Gonzalez said last week that his swing has been "a wreck" all season. This is an inopportune time for a player to start talking about mechanical flaws. The Dodgers need production from the man who protects Matt Kemp, and they're really not getting any. Gonzalez has gotten some hits to fall here and there, sprayed some line drives around, but he hasn't driven the ball in weeks. He homered in his first Dodgers at-bat and hasn't hit one out since then (Aug. 25).
Bench rot. The Dodgers have an increasingly dysfunctional roster. The bench was bad to begin with and it appears to be getting worse with disuse. A prime example is Juan Rivera, who -- at times -- has had a prominent role on this team. After acquiring Shane Victorino, the Dodgers just kind of shuffled Rivera off to the bench. Before Friday, he had gotten one at-bat in the previous nine games. The result, of course, is that Rivera's swing isn't there when they need it. An injury to Victorino has thrust Rivera into the lineup and he's gone 0-for-5 the past two games.
Not scoring. The Dodgers have scored three runs or fewer in 16 of their past 21 games. They have been shut out in four of those games and scored one run three times. As slumps go, this one is ugly. Really ugly. What makes it so baffling is that the Dodgers added hitters with All-Star pedigrees around the trade deadlines. It looks as if they're caught without an identity. They went from a scrappy team without a lot of power to a team trying to hit for power without a lot of success.
The Slump. It's only one small piece of the puzzle, but it hasn't helped matters that the one catcher on the Dodgers' roster who can hit isn't. After grounding out a couple of times, A.J. Ellis is 0 for his past 28. This guy desperately needs a bloop hit or a ball to glance off somebody's glove, because this is the kind of oh-fer that can get in your head. Some of the blame for Ellis' slump probably resides with manager Don Mattingly for playing him so often earlier this month.
Wrong stuff. Reliever Jamey Wright has pitched as well as any Dodgers reliever for the past several weeks, but you can't have days much worse than he had Saturday. He faced five batters and didn't get any of them out. He gave up two hits, two walks and made a throwing error. That's some kind of cycle, isn't it? Every once in a while, a reliever is going to come in without his best stuff, but right now the Dodgers can't afford even moderate meltdowns from any of their pitchers because they can't score enough to cover them up.