Dodgers caught off guard in bizarre ending
Baserunning miscues in ninth lead to sixth straight loss
ANAHEIM -- Joe Torre was talking about his managerial future Wednesday, suggesting that he'll return for another year only if he's still enjoying what he's doing, and a few hours later his team made him wonder if he's still enjoying what he's doing.
With two jaw-dropping baserunning blunders in the ninth inning, the Dodgers made sure their losing streak reached a season-worst six in an astounding 2-1 loss to the Angels.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"You can't give away games," Torre said. "You get beat enough times without beating yourself."
The Dodgers are getting beat plenty lately. They have lost five consecutive games to the Angels (out-hitting the Angels in both losses of this series) and lost their past nine Interleague games (2-9 against the American League this year). They've been caught by Colorado for third place and are now four games out of first, the worst they've been since May 14.
One of Torre's strengths as a player's manager is refraining from publicly criticizing his players, but that was impossible after first Matt Kemp, then Russell Martin (with an assist from Reed Johnson) made mental mistakes to get erased at second base, twice preventing the tying run from scoring.
The Dodgers opened the ninth with Kemp reaching first on a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Wood, and pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard followed with a line single to center. Casey Blake struck out, and on a 3-1 count to Martin, Angels closer Brian Fuentes spun around in the opposite direction for most left-handed pickoff throws and nailed Kemp.
It not only wasn't a balk, it was in the scouting reports and discussed in the pre-series meeting. Torre showed little emotion speaking with the media, but his message was blunt.
"We've talked about the move he has and we still got caught with it," said Torre. "That's why we have information. You need more than ability to play with. You have to keep your head in the game. We need to think and we didn't think tonight."
"I just got picked off. There's really nothing else you can say about it," said Kemp. "It's baseball. If we hit some balls further to the left or to the right, they might have been hits, score some runs. Made a dumb play at the end of the game to cost us the game. It's just one of those days. Got to come back tomorrow and make something happen."
But wait, what happened next was even worse. Martin walked, which should have loaded the bases, but instead put pinch-runner Johnson on second base with Jamey Carroll batting for Blake DeWitt.
Carroll blooped an 0-1 pitch that fell in shallow left field for a single that should have easily scored Johnson with two outs. But two-thirds of the way between third and home, Johnson slightly eased up, not realizing that Angels left fielder Juan Rivera was alertly firing behind Martin as he rounded second base, or realizing that Martin had slipped putting on the brakes to retreat.
Second baseman Howard Kendrick took Rivera's throw, tagged Martin on the back as he reached for the bag and second-base umpire Jim Reynolds came running in to call Martin out. Meanwhile, plate umpire Mike DiMuro ruled that Johnson -- who accelerated when he heard the crowd -- had not crossed the plate before Martin was called out, so DiMuro waved off the run. Martin slammed his helmet and was ejected by Reynolds from a game that was already over.
The post-game ejection has no bearing on Martin's availability for tonight's game or future contests. However, as a result of the ejection, he is subject to a fine."Russell can't put himself in a position like that," Torre said. "You can't make mistakes like that at this level. You've got to know the outs, you've got to know the situation, when to take a chance and when not to take a chance. I'm pretty sure it won't happen again. That guy's got to score to tie the game. We need to think a lot better than that."
Martin argued with Reynolds, but didn't argue with Torre.
"I still think I was safe," Martin said. "The thing is, it was too close. The last thing you want to do is get thrown out before the run crosses. Safe or out, he made the call and there's nothing you can do now. Now that I think about it, it's just a dumb play and probably the last time I make it. I was still safe, though, and you can tell the umpire that."
Said Johnson: "I took off right off the bat, got a good jump and was about ready to cross home plate and heard the crowd start to go crazy and saw the umpire already called Russell out. I was looking around for an answer."
"Right when you think you've seen it all," Fuentes said, "something like this happens. I've never seen anything like it. It was bizarre."
The stunning ninth inning overshadowed seven solid innings from Dodgers starter John Ely, who rebounded from a three-start slump to be charged with two runs. One was earned, but both were tainted by errors from shortstop Rafael Furcal, who returned from the bereavement list after the death of his father. Ely allowed only three hits, but two were doubles leading off the fourth and fifth innings that turned into runs.
The only Dodgers run off winner Joel Pineiro (he retired 14 consecutive batters at one point) scored in the third inning. Andre Ethier was credited with a single when his sharp grounder got stuck in the webbing of first baseman Mike Napoli's glove. Manny Ramirez followed with a single. With two outs, Kemp doubled home Ethier, but Ramirez was only able to reach third base, as the ball caromed off the fence right to Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.