Patient offense pays in Dodgers' streak
Torre says consistent bats offset inexperience of rotation
LOS ANGELES -- Before his team was to take the field Tuesday night with a chance to tie a Major League record, Dodgers manager Joe Torre again downplayed the significance of the "streak," compared to the significance of the wins themselves.
The Dodgers were one win shy of the record 12 wins in home games to start a season, set by the 1911 Detroit Tigers.
"I'm glad there's finally something that happened before I was born," said Torre, who was born in 1940.
"Any time you put a streak like that together, it's a surprise. It doesn't surprise me that we're going out every day and grinding. The danger is in living for the streak. We've got a lot of baseball to play. Streaks are something to admire and look back on afterward."
Torre's Dodgers would go for the record-tying win against the D-backs, with Jeff Weaver making his first Dodgers start since 2005.
"Right now, we're playing very well," Torre said. "But Arizona started 20-8 last year [finishing second at 82-80]. Things can happen very quickly in this game. We spent all last year looking from the other side of .500. We have a good team this year, but we've been lucky with the pitching. We lost some key people [Hiroki Kuroda, Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade]. But we're finding other guys. That's the luck portion. Guys go down, other guys step up. You lose a Kuo, but you get a [Ramon] Troncoso that you might never find out about."
Torre said the consistent offense has compensated for the stretch of short starts by his inexperienced starting rotation. He credited the offense to the patient approach preached by hitting coach Don Mattingly.
"That is a plan," he said. "Every once in a while, the impatience shows up and we have to remind the guys. I find with pitchers, they don't try to get ahead like the old days. They go to the hitter's weakness, so if the hitter has a good plan, he doesn't swing at that pitch and work the count. Greg Maddux was good at exploiting the hitter's weakness and did it in a cunning way."
Torre said the Dodgers slipped into a spell of impatience during the final game of the series in Colorado on April 26, losing to Jason Marquis. That's when Torre and Mattingly "reminded" the hitters of the "plan" in a pair of clubhouse meetings. He said he was pleased that the impatience didn't carry over to the next set of games, as often happened during the first half of 2008.
"That was a bad game for us," Torre said. "We had a meeting to remind them. The difference from last year is that I'm not selling the concept anymore. We tell them to look at the results when you do this. You remind them how it works, remind them of what is successful."
Monday night's 7-2 game lasted 3 1/2 hours, and Torre recalled that when his 1998 Yankees employed the patient strategy, they won a lot of games and also drew the ire of the Commissioner's Office, which was focused on time-of-game issues.
The Dodgers entered Tuesday night's play leading the league in team batting average, runs and walks, while having the fewest runners left on base.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.