Thursday, August 30, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Diamondbacks 2, Dodgers 0
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are getting bullied in their own neighborhood and it's imperiling their postseason chances.
They lost 2-0 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, their seventh straight loss to Arizona. The Dodgers are four games under .500 against the NL West and 20 of their final 30 games are inside the division.
Tightrope walking. Clayton Kershaw threw a slow curveball to Justin Upton that started outside at shoulder level and broke toward Upton's right knee, swooping through the strike zone. The Diamondbacks' right fielder didn't even pause on his way toward the dugout. That was one of Kershaw's nine strikeouts, but his one mistake cost the Dodgers the game. Chris Young's two-run home run just inside the left-field pole -- and Kershaw's high pitch count -- meant his six strong innings weren't enough. Kershaw is not pitching much differently than he did last year, but he's not getting the same luck.
Stopping power. Things could have gotten messier for Kershaw if not for his batterymate. Catcher A.J. Ellis threw out consecutive base stealers in the sixth inning after Kershaw had allowed back-to-back singles. Ellis also gave the big crowd its only real reason to get excited -- momentarily -- when he hit a drive to the warning track in left field that would have been a tying home run in the fifth inning. You could make an argument for Ellis as the team's fourth or fifth best player.
A little fight. The Dodgers looked about as lifeless as you can look through eight innings, scrounging up just three hits off Ian Kennedy and a pair of relievers. But they rallied in the ninth inning off closer J.J. Putz, with the first two guys reaching base on hits. It fizzled, but it at least gave the impression they're not going down easily. The fans who stuck around seemed to appreciate getting a little entertainment value out of their tickets. Up to then, it was more than three hours of nothingness.
Off again. The Dodgers would be in trouble if not for the contributions of Hanley Ramirez, who was second in the majors in August RBIs coming into Thursday. But there are times when he seems to be coasting. He looked unsure at shortstop again -- failing to charge a couple of slow rollers that resulted in infield hits -- and he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. He has been a bit of an all-or-nothing proposition.
Slow starter. It's not as if the Dodgers expected much from utility guy Nick Punto when they swung their mega-deal with the Boston Red Sox, but Don Mattingly has given him two starts already, so he obviously is going to have a role. It hasn't started well at the plate for Punto, who was batting .200 at the time of the trade. He has struck out five times in eight at-bats and his other two swings produced a dribbler to the left side and a little pop-up to the shortstop. Seems like an odd choice to lead off.
No Kemp. Mattingly wasn't sure whether Matt Kemp would be available for late-game pinch-hitting duties before the game started. Considering Kemp never took off his jacket or emerged from the dugout when the Dodgers staged their ninth-inning rally, the answer apparently was "No." Kemp has an assortment of injuries stemming from slamming into that outfield wall in Colorado Tuesday night and you wonder, even when he returns, whether he'll be playing at full health. It's a big concern.