Martin's big day can't save Dodgers
Starter Wolf allows four runs in six innings to take the loss
MILWAUKEE -- At least the trend lines are moving in the right direction for the Dodgers.
They cut the margin of defeat from six runs in Monday's opener to one in Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Brewers. They got two more innings out of starter Randy Wolf (six) than from Derek Lowe (four). They actually held (but squandered) two leads in this game and had more hits from Russell Martin (three) than the entire team (two) had the day before.
"We're getting closer," said manager Grady Little. "I think we'll jump on somebody tomorrow."
OK, the Dodgers are in last place. The defense is, shall we say, exciting to watch. And the starting pitching, supposedly the best in the division, has allowed 10 runs in 10 innings.
"I don't see any panic around here. We're fine, regardless of 0-2," said left fielder Luis Gonzalez, who was mystified as to why he was surrounded by reporters.
The answer was a second inning Johnny Estrada double to left-center that fell beyond the outstretched glove of the left fielder that, at age 39, should not be expected to lay out his body unless it's also expected that his body will be laid onto the disabled list.
"I just couldn't get to it," said Gonzalez. "It's no secret, I've been playing 17 years. What you see is what you get. I'm not 21."
Of course, if those kind of fly balls are not caught, then the Russell Martins of the offense must produce more runs or the Randy Wolfs of the starting rotation must allow fewer. Estrada scored one out later on Corey Hart's single.
"Playing teams like this and Florida, they're gung-ho with good young players," said Gonzalez. "Obviously, we haven't come out on full cylinders, but we've got a good team. Talk to us in August and in the pennant race and see where we're at. Look at our careers, we've all been through slumps and streaks. We'll roll with it."
While that one run might have been preventable, what beat Wolf were two long balls. He allowed a solo homer that Prince Fielder powered to the opposite field to tie the game at 2-2 in the third inning, and let a 3-2 lead get away when Kevin Mench slugged a two-run homer in the sixth.
"It was frustrating at the end there," said Wolf, making his Dodgers debut. "I made a personal mistake and it cost us the game. It's hard to swallow. It was a slider I tried to get in and left it over the plate. For the most part, I felt good about the way I threw. I made one mistake and it kind of cost us the game."
Wolf had retired seven consecutive batters when he came to bat with two on and two out in the top of the sixth inning. Little said pinch-hitting for Wolf at that point was not a consideration. After all, the offseason signing of Wolf and Jason Schmidt was meant to address last year's tendency of five-inning starts.
"We're looking for people to go deeper into games, and this is the best way to achieve this," said Little. "He was still competitive, and he hadn't thrown many pitches."
Wolf finished with 93 pitches in six innings, had the command to strike out five with one walk and allowed seven hits.
Martin carried the offense with three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. Batting in the second spot, he singled in the first inning, followed Juan Pierre's leadoff walk with an RBI double in the third and was doubled home by Nomar Garciaparra, then homered to dead center in the fifth, raising his mark against Brewers starter Chris Capuano to 6-for-9 (.667).
"I wasn't thinking home run," said Martin, who hit 10 homers last year. "I got a ball up in the zone and put a good swing on it."
Martin was batting second because Pierre was in the leadoff spot with shortstop Rafael Furcal sidelined with a sprained ankle that is healing slowly. Pierre went 0-for-4, scored the only time he reached base and is 0-for-8 in two games. Martin, who ended the game taking a called third strike from Francisco Cordero, said the spot he hits in the order makes no difference.
"I don't change my mind-set," he said. "But with Nomar and [Jeff] Kent behind me, I know I'll get pitches to see. I stay aggressive and try to put the ball in play."
Martin also made a slick catch of a Kent throw and tagged Bill Hall out on an attempted steal of home to end the third inning.
Matt Kemp, who started in right field, went 0-for-4, but hit two balls to the warning track in center field.
"Each one had a chance to leave the park," said Little.
Reliever Jonathan Broxton struck out the side in the eighth.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.