Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Dodgers' forgettable offense persists
By Tony Jackson ESPNLosAngeles.com
HOUSTON -- When I got back upstairs Wednesday from a fairly funereal Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse -- isn't the Dodgers' clubhouse almost always fairly funereal these days? -- following their 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros before 21,350 at Minute Maid Park, I decided to take a quick glance through the "stat pack" distributed to the media. I was looking for something very specific, and when I found it, I have to admit I was shocked, and a little puzzled.
The Dodgers, according to the page I consulted, have 39 hits this season with two outs and men in scoring position. And I can honestly tell you that off the top of my head, I can't remember a single one of them.
A look back through my scorebook would have revealed every one of them, certainly. But who has time for that when you have dinner plans? So I'll just take MLB's word for it since I've never known the stat pack to be wrong, after all. But after watching this latest in a long line of offensive flameouts, this latest waste of an outstanding performance by a Dodgers starting pitcher, all I could really remember was that sense I seem to always get whenever the Dodgers really need a two-out hit.
Rafael Furcal, awaiting a pitch from Aneury Rodriguez on Wednesday, was one of several Dodgers who didn't hit in the clutch.
That sense being that their chances of getting it are virtually nonexistent.
The Dodgers had exactly seven plate appearances in this game with runners in scoring position. Only one of those came with less than two outs, and that was with Ted Lilly -- he of the wasted start in which he gave up only a run and four hits over six innings -- at the plate in an obvious bunting situation. Of the other six, two resulted in intentional walks. And the other four resulted in a whole lot of nothing.
A strikeout by Matt Kemp. A grounder to short by Rafael Furcal. A grounder back to the pitcher by Furcal. And a lazy fly ball to center by Dioner Navarro.
And with that, the Dodgers were left hitting .192 (39-for-202) for the season with two outs and runners in scoring position, and I was left racking my brain trying to remember any of those 39 hits.
"I don't know what everybody else is feeling, but I have been [pressing] at times," Kemp said. "I'm trying my hardest to drive in runs, sometimes maybe a little too hard. I think we have just been pushing a little too much. Sometimes, we just have to let a game come to us. ... We have to score more runs. We're just not getting the job done offensively."
At the moment, I'm not sure manager Don Mattingly remembers any of those hits either.
"That has kind of been our struggle, not being able to get that hit when we needed it," Mattingly said. "We got our chances. The opportunities are showing up, but we just haven't been able to get that hit when we needed it to give us a little bit of a cushion and put some pressure on the other club."
There have been several games this season in which the Dodgers (22-29) lost because of a lack of offense or timely hitting. Rarely, though, has there been one in which it has been so cut-and-dried as this one. For the first eight innings, the offense consisted of a solo home run by each team, Michael Bourn slamming Lilly's first pitch of the game into the front row in right-center and Kemp countering with a blast into the Crawford Boxes in left in the sixth.
Meanwhile, each team was going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position -- until the ninth, when catcher J.R. Towles singled home Brian Bogusevic from second base with two outs in the ninth and the Astros made it 1-for-5.
Only a slight difference. But a huge difference at the same time.
And so now, with absolutely no momentum behind them following a 2-4 trip and at a point when they have lost nine of their past 12, the Dodgers embark on an especially daunting portion of their schedule beginning Friday night. Until they see the Astros again June 17, the Dodgers will play their next 19 games against four teams -- the Florida Marlins, the Colorado Rockies, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies -- all of whom are in either first or second place in their respective divisions.
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Yeah, they're probably going to get Casey Blake back Friday night. But keep in mind, a week ago they were hoping the return of Furcal from his long stay on the disabled list would inject life into their lineup. So far since his return Sunday, Furcal is 1-for-18.
This, of course, was brought to Mattingly's attention after the game. More specifically, I asked him how his team can survive this upcoming stretch after it failed to really stay afloat against the hardly intimidating likes of the Astros, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, all of whom have losing records but have won a series from the Dodgers this month.
"Hopefully, it gets away from survival and we just start getting it rolling," Mattingly said. "I think the one thing we have going for us at this point is the off-day. Hopefully, [Furcal] can kick a little rust off and come back and get himself rolling. Without any setbacks, we're going to get Casey back on the club. We should get [catcher] Rod [Barajas] back at full strength on Friday, and we feel like [right fielder Andre Ethier] should be 100 percent on Friday, and we'll go from there."
Exactly where they will go is anyone's guess. But unless they start getting those clutch hits that have been so woefully lacking, these Dodgers don't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.