Penny can't stop slide vs. Cubs
Right-hander remains winless in last seven starts
LOS ANGELES -- Brad Penny rarely lost before the All-Star break in the previous two years.Lately, he can't seem to buy a win. Penny's winless streak stretched to seven starts Sunday despite his second straight quality performance, as the Dodgers' offense was unable to support him in a 3-1 loss to the Cubs at Dodger Stadium. "That's baseball," Penny said. "You've got to tip your hat to the other team. [Cubs starter Jason Marquis] pitched a good game today. You've just got to keep your team in the game." Penny (5-8) did that, yielding three runs on six hits and three walks in six innings, but that other guy, Marquis (4-3), was a bit better in allowing one unearned run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. Los Angeles managed to scratch out its only run on a single, stolen base, error and RBI groundout in the first inning. Penny has not won since May 2, his longest drought since an 11-game winless run in 2001, when Penny was a second-year hurler with the Marlins. This from a pitcher who has dominated the first half the last two years, compiling a 20-3 record combined before the All-Star break. "He's been there consistently for us the last couple of years," said outfielder Andre Ethier. "It's one of those things where he's going through a tough time, and we need to figure out ways to get the job done. We can look at the scoreboard and say he pitched well enough to get us an opportunity, but we weren't able to answer the call for him." Penny has been much better in these last two quality starts, but he has simply been outdueled. That's a sharp contrast from the first five starts in this winless stretch, when he racked up a 9.43 ERA. Penny said he's felt better and his stuff he's been more consistent these last two outings. He added he's pitched pain-free, whereas before he was "pitching through some stuff." "He's had two good starts in a row in my mind," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "Sure he was a loser, but he held a very good club to three runs, six innings, and I thought he competed again. And that's two straight starts for me that I'm not satisfied with the outcome, obviously, but satisfied with his approach and his competing." With the score tied at 1 in the fifth, Mark DeRosa drove in his second run of the game with an RBI single after Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a double. Two batters later, Aramis Ramirez drove home DeRosa with a double for the final run of the game. Marquis kept the Dodgers off balance by mixing speeds and location. He retired 12 straight Dodgers after Juan Pierre singled to lead off the home first, and seven straight later in the contest. Torre said his team needs to make sure its stays patient and not let frustration creep in.
"I think we get to points where we don't score runs and everybody thinks they have to do something extra-special," he said. "My feeling is we will hit. I felt the last two games did a lot for our confidence and [we] basically got shut down today."The Dodgers staff spent a lot of time in Spring Training focusing on the importance of being patient and having a plan at the plate, Torre said, but he added struggling teams like the Dodgers often have a tendency to go outside of that plan. Los Angeles has now scored one or no runs in nine of 17 games, and has scored more than four runs in just three of those contests, often letting solid pitching go to waste. "It's pretty much our calling card, unfortunately," Torre said. The silver lining is Torre prefers 3-1 games over 12-10 games because he can manage them a bit more, and he figures his offense is talented enough to turn it around eventually, at which time he expects more wins if the pitchers continue their impressive work. The Dodgers also managed to split a series with the Cubs, who entered the series having won nine in a row, starting with a sweep of the Dodgers in Chicago. Los Angeles, meanwhile, had stumbled with 10 losses in 13 games prior to the start of the weekend set. "This [Cubs] team was coming in swinging the bats real well, and as a team we were able to take two from them," Ethier said. "But we still didn't accomplish our goal of winning the series."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.