Dodgers take step back in loss to Padres
Offense goes 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position
LOS ANGELES -- There are games, and there are opportunities, and Thursday night the Dodgers let both get away.
With a chance to throw some real doubt into the minds of the first-place San Diego Padres after scoring nine runs the previous night, the Dodgers' offense relapsed and was blanked, 5-0, for a split of their four-game series.
It was the second time the Dodgers have been shut out in the last five games and the 14th time in 21 games since the All-Star break that the Dodgers have scored two runs or fewer. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"It's disappointing," manager Joe Torre said. "It comes down to, we'll get what we earn."
More important, the Dodgers went only 3-7 against the Padres and second-place Giants in this 10-game stretch against two teams they are chasing and won't play again for another month.
"So far this year, that was our most important game," said San Diego winning pitcher Kevin Correia. "When you're playing a four-game series with a team behind you ... looking to gain ground, you know you have to win a series or get a split.
"This is as big a game as you can have in August."
Although the Dodgers are eight games out of first and six games behind Wild Card leader San Francisco, third baseman Casey Blake warns that it's too soon to bury his club.
"Somebody needs to check where we were in mid-August in 2008," he said. "We had an eight-game losing streak at an inopportune time, but how'd we finish?"
For the record, that eight-game losing streak from Aug. 22-29 left the Dodgers 4 1/2 games out and they rallied to win by two games. However, in Los Angeles history, the Dodgers have never been this far out this late in the season and finished first.
While the offense was again to blame for this one, the defense didn't help. The Dodgers were unable to turn a double play with their unconventional shift on for Adrian Gonzalez (1-for-15 in the series), setting in motion a three-run fourth inning that snapped losing pitcher Chad Billingsley's scoreless-innings streak at 24 2/3.
They came out for the ninth inning with right fielder Andre Ethier making his Major League debut at first base, Torre trying to ration his bench while shorthanded with Rafael Furcal hurt.
And with the game still winnable in the ninth inning, Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia hit a two-run, ground-ball home run.
That's right, a ground-ball home run. It bounced over the head of Blake and rolled into foul territory alongside the tarp in foul ground. Scott Podsednik, playing only his fourth home game as the new left fielder, said he waited for the ball to kick out and "it hugged up under the tarp and got by me. I didn't know what it was going to do. Now I know."
And Denorfia had the first inside-the-park homer against the Dodgers since Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels in 2007.
Blake also was involved in the double play that didn't happen, with a runner on first and no outs against the pull-hitter Gonzalez. Blake was moved from his third-base position to the first-base side of second base, so when Gonzalez grounded to shortstop Jamey Carroll, Blake became the double-play pivot man, only to double clutch with a late throw. The next four batters reached base off Billingsley (two on walks), the inability to turn the double play costing the Dodgers two runs.
"If we did turn the double play," said Torre, "who knows what would happen?"
Blake said he suggested to Carroll that they switch positions before the play, which they finally did the next time Gonzalez came up.
"I've got to turn that double play," he said. "I'm not used to it. It's different. Maybe I ought to practice it more, since there are guys in our division. We didn't really talk about what to do with a man on first. I think I need to get out of the double play altogether. I should go to rover."
The Dodgers had runners in scoring position five of the last six innings without scoring, with newcomer Ryan Theriot getting three hits.
The Padres, who were at a disadvantage before the game even started. Their batting practice was cut short when a member of a church group about to participate in pregame ceremonies collapsed near the third-base coaching box. The Padres left the field as medics attempted to revive the victim, who later died at a local hospital.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.