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Sunday, August 26, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Marlins 6, Dodgers 2

By Mark Saxon


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn't carry the momentum of Saturday's massive trade to a second straight win.

They lost 6-2 to the Miami Marlins on Sunday, an excruciatingly frustrating day at the plate, especially for shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position, managing to score just two runs on 11 hits.

The Dodgers stranded 16 runners.

The Good:

Traction. The Dodgers hadn't been getting much spark from the top of their lineup. Shane Victorino was in a 2-for-18 slump and he missed Saturday's game due to some back stiffness. Maybe things started turning for Victorino with three hits. The Dodgers have plenty of middle-of-the-order hitters now, but they don't have many premium table setters, so they need Victorino to create chances.

Nick who? You may not know this, but the Dodgers acquired Nick Punto in Saturday's nine-player blockbuster with the Boston Red Sox. Punto even joked about his relative anonymity during Saturday's media conference, answering a question intended for Adrian Gonzalez. He's a local guy, having grown up in Mission Viejo, and he got off to a nice start with the Dodgers, getting on base three times and scoring the first run. He also made two brilliant plays at second base and moved to third in a double switch.

Solid, if unspectacular. With the new hitters they've added, the Dodgers should be in pretty good shape if they can get solid pitching from the back of their rotation. They have nothing to complain about with Aaron Harang. He had been on a bit of a roll coming in -- with quality starts in six of his previous eight outings -- and he gave them a chance Sunday. They just couldn't add on runs for him after the first inning. Harang's only meaningful mistakes were home-run pitches to Giancarlo Stanton (join the club) and Rob Brantly (one-man club).
The Bad:

The clutch. The Dodgers blew major opportunities in six of the nine innings. In nearly all cases, they had the right guys up, but the wrong results. In the first, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier both struck out to strand a couple of runners. In the fifth, Matt Kemp popped up and neither Ramirez nor Ethier could come through. Luis Cruz and Gonzalez stranded guys later. The Dodgers have the right names, it would seem, but you don't win with names.

Hanley. Let's zero in on Ramirez, since he contributed zero (or less) to the Dodgers' effort Sunday. Ramirez made an error to let in a run. He twice took called third strikes in key RBI spots and went 0-for-4 to strand eight men on base, six in scoring position. Ramirez wasn't doing his "look at me" gesture much. Ramirez has been generally clutch for the Dodgers, but he's had a soft homestand -- four hits in 23 at-bats -- and you wonder how he'll react now that he's no longer the marquee attraction. The Dodgers have ideal balance in terms of left-handed and right-handed hitters, so Ramirez is pretty locked in at the No. 5 spot.

Catching rotation. It's getting hard for Don Mattingly to give catcher A.J. Ellis a day off. For one thing, he often needs Ellis as a pinch hitter even when he's not catching, because his bench is so weak. For another, Matt Treanor has gone 0-for-August and may not play again this month. It's not that the Dodgers need a lot of production from their backup catcher. They just need some.