Thursday, September 20, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Nationals 4, Dodgers 1
By Mark Saxon
Who knows, maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers have a run left in them.
But after Thursday's 4-1 loss that allowed the Washington Nationals to clinch a playoff berth in D.C., there's no sign of it. In fact, there's no sign of life, not after the Dodgers could manage just four hits, once again coming up small as the games get bigger.
With 12 games left, the Milwaukee Brewers passed them in the wild-card standings. The Dodgers now trail the St. Louis Cardinals by three games. Momentum and mathematics are not on the Dodgers' side. According to ESPN.com's Hunt for October, the Dodgers now have a 6 percent chance of reaching the postseason.
Good enough. Was it a great start by Chris Capuano? No. Judging by his three strikeouts, his stuff wasn't particularly sharp and he gave up four runs -- three earned -- in just five innings. But on a team with a functioning offense, it would have at least been good enough to give the team a chance. Nowadays, pitchers have to throw shutouts to give the Dodgers a chance and, even if they do, it's no sure thing.
Mighty 'pen. The amazing thing about this downward spiral the Dodgers are in is that they're actually playing well in two of the four phases. The starting pitching has been solid and the relief work has been stellar. Even the defense has been fairly decent. We'll get to the offense later, of course. Kenley Jansen came back off a scary irregular heartbeat and eased back in by getting an out; Jamey Wright continued to pitch well. The Dodgers might have even been a decent playoff team because they have so much relief depth, but we'll probably never know.
A little pop. It's not as if Mark Ellis has had a torrid September. He's batting .275 this month with two home runs and three RBIs. But he's one of the few guys who seems to be playing free and easy. He provided the Dodgers' only offense with a home run and plays some of the most solid defense in the major leagues. If the Dodgers had nine Mark Ellises, they'd be better off in this playoff hunt than they've been with a bunch of bigger, more highly hyped players.
Hitting. What can you say about an offense that, in two of its more critical series, went 3-for-38 with runners in scoring position? Well, Thursday (facing Ross Detwiler) was worse. The Dodgers had only one at-bat with a runner in scoring position (and went 0-for-1). The Dodgers had one walk all evening. We are seeing a team playing so tight, it simply can't function.
Defensive shortcomings. In late August, ESPN.com's John Fisher asked whether Hanley Ramirez should play shortstop or third base. Um, how about designated hitter? Unfortunately, that's not an option for the Dodgers. He made another error and has made six in 52 games with the Dodgers, but it's the plays he doesn't make as a shortstop that have been most punishing. The Dodgers might need to sit him down this winter and explain that he's going to be a third baseman next season. Luis Cruz or Dee Gordon should be playing shortstop.
Getting on. Shane Victorino has always had a knack for getting on base. Adrian Gonzalez has been one of the most patient hitters in the game. But they both seem to have adopted the ways of the rest of this free-swinging lineup. Those two haven't been getting on base, which fits right in with the rest of the team. The Dodgers' .315 on-base percentage ranks 12th in the National League. When they're not hitting, they're not scoring. And guess what, they're not hitting.