Dodgers find themselves way off base
Wolf yields two homers, but real culprit is 15 runners stranded
ST. PETERSBURG -- Randy Wolf didn't pitch particularly poorly. The defense wouldn't have made any highlight reels, but it held firm.
Instead, it was the hitting that doomed the Dodgers on Saturday night.
All told, the team left 15 men on base, which tied its season-worst effort, set April 29 at San Diego. The breakdown was even worse: At least one was stranded each inning, twice the bases were loaded and four times an inning finished with a runner on third.
So what gives?
"I think it makes it more understandable why the game turned out the way it did," said Dodgers manager Grady Little, of his team's 4-3 loss to the Rays.
The Dodgers drew nine walks, and just one of those runners scored. When the bases were juiced, the Dodgers hitters went 0-4 with two double-play balls. Little said the latter didn't concern him so much as the former.
"A lot of times, those balls were hit right on the nose -- they just went right at somebody, right into a double play," Little said. "And they were unfortunate things.
"Fifteen is too many people to leave on base and think you might win a game."
The Dodgers struggled against Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir, who held them hitless into the fourth inning, when James Loney ended the streak with a soft single to right.
It seemed to break the spell Kazmir had on the Dodgers, who went on to get six more hits and three runs over the left-hander's final three innings.
Down 3-0 in the sixth, Los Angeles used a leadoff triple, a double and a single to score twice and have a man on base with one out. That brought up Juan Pierre, who executed the perfect suicide-squeeze bunt to tie the game.
Pierre tapped the ball hard enough back to Kazmir that Andre Ethier was able to score from third before the pitcher got his hands on it. Pierre himself nearly beat the throw to first, but settled for the sacrifice and the 3-all tie.
The Dodgers then loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, but Matt Kemp hit into a home-to-first double play started by third baseman Akinori Iwamura. The Dodgers again loaded the bases, but Tony Abreu flied out to end the threat.
Russell Martin was as stumped as anyone about what had gone on.
"It's baseball," he shrugged. "There's not really a reason. They've got a tough pitcher. He just got tougher when there were guys on base. You can't really point fingers. ... You just have to make adjustments."
Martin went 1-for-4 during the night with a walk, and stranded four men.
There was a bright side to Martin's night, however: He set the single-season steals record for Los Angeles Dodgers catchers during the eighth inning after he knocked a two-out single. His effort broke the previous record, set by John Roseboro in 1962.
"It's kind of cool, but there's a lot of baseball left, so I want to do the best I can every day," Martin said. "It's always nice to get into the record books, sure, but that's not why we play the game.
"We play the game to win."
Wolf was similarly frustrated in front of his locker afterward, but more with himself than with his teammates.
"I left a couple of pitches out over the plate that hurt me," lamented the Dodgers starter, who served up two homers in his 6 2/3 innings after allowing just one over the last nine starts combined. "We didn't win today. You can't really walk away with any good feeling.
"When you get to the sixth and seventh innings, you've got to hang zeros ... and I didn't do that."
The night began, and ended, rocky for the lefty.
Just four hitters in, and he'd already been charged with a home run by Iwamura, a double and a single, which amounted to two runs and just one out.
Fortunately he snapped out of it and locked down after the first, and yielded a single run over the next five innings. Wolf exited with two outs in a seventh inning in which he surrendered the eventual game-winning homer to lead off the frame by former Dodger Dioner Navarro. He fanned five and walked two.
Sure, his teammates had more than their fair share of missed opportunities, but Wolf refused to blame them.
"They're trying to do their job as best they can, same as me," he said. "My only frustration is with how I threw. It's not like I threw a no-hitter out there today. In the seventh inning, I gave up a key home run to the leadoff guy, and that put us in a hole.
"That's what I'm frustrated with."
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.