Tuesday, August 21, 2012
On the discomforts of home
By Mark Saxon
Joe Blanton fell to 0-3 as a Dodger, and the team also continued its struggles at home.
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Blanton was just wrapping up his postgame interview Tuesday night when somebody mentioned the boos that seemed, at times, directed at him and, at times, directed at his teammates Tuesday night.
"I've pitched in Philly," Blanton said. "That's nothing."
The Dodgers had a sellout crowd Tuesday night on Fernando Valenzuela bobblehead night and, at times, the gathering of 56,000 people let their team have it during a lackluster 4-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Elements of the crowd's scorn seemed a bit rash -- for example, the isolated boos for Matt Kemp during his first appreciable slump in two years -- but some of it is more than understandable.
There's certainly a pattern here. The Dodgers look like a different team on the road than they do at home. Away from Dodger Stadium, they have looked powerful and aggressive, but when they get back to Chavez Ravine their focus seems to meander. The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 20 games on the road and lost 11 of their last 16 at home.
If they can't beat Matt Cain and the Giants on Wednesday, they'll be looking at a 2 1/2-game hole in the NL West, so this might be a good time to wake up and realize they're supposed to have an edge here.
Maybe the cavernous outfield here is getting in their heads. Kemp hit a deep sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the sixth inning that drove Hunter Pence to the edge of the warning track in right field. At that point, the Dodgers probably could have blamed their stadium instead of their stadium blaming them.
"That ball's way back at a lot of major-league stadiums. This isn't one of them," manager Don Mattingly said.
The way the Dodgers consistently fail to score at home, their best hope for getting back some of their swagger here might be to pitch better. Clayton Kershaw was Clayton Kershaw on Monday, but Blanton put the Dodgers in a 4-0 hole after four innings and, these days, that looks like a Himalayan technical ascent to this team, especially when those cool breezes start rippling through Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers made some shrewd, impactful moves at the trade deadline, but was the Blanton deal a reach? So far, they've gotten scant production from a pitcher they're going to have to pay more than $2 million to for a couple of months. As a Dodger, Blanton is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA, 28 hits and nine walks in 21 innings. Not good.
"I think the first couple games, maybe I was just trying to do a little too much out of the gate," Blanton said. "I've been a little too fine instead of being aggressive and really pounding the zone like I'm used to."
The Dodgers could use a little more aggressiveness from more player than one these days.