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08/26/08 12:34 AM ET
Dodgers' bats can't stave off sweep
Los Angeles leaves 14 men on base in series-ending shutout
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers had no problem hitting the Phillies' pitching staff on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, recording 13 knocks in all and at least one in every inning. Scoring runs, however, posed a completely different challenge, as the Dodgers put 16 runners on base without tallying a run in their 5-0 loss to the Phillies, going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. "For me, the difference between us now and when we were in L.A. is we haven't gotten big hits," said Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly. "We've gotten guys out there, we've given ourselves opportunities for the most part, but we haven't been able to get the big hit. We've had chances to get some runs on the board." The Dodgers had chances in every inning on Monday, leaving 14 runners on base, including nine in scoring position. They left multiple runners on base in six of the nine innings. Los Angeles' offensive performance closely resembled its output from Sunday night, when the Dodgers left 13 runners on base, including 10 in scoring position, while hitting in 10 of the 11 innings. "It's the same movie," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We had men in scoring position. The longer it goes, eventually you're going to do something on the positive side. Right now, I think everyone's trying too hard." Before the game, Torre spoke of the need to put runners on base in front of cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez. That exact situation presented itself with two outs in the seventh and the Dodgers trailing by three, but Jayson Werth ran down Ramirez's screaming liner to right. Ramirez also hit a ball deep to right with a runner at third in the fifth, but Werth tracked that one down, as well. "Manny hits two balls today ... that wind's blowing in for us -- one ball's got a chance to go out of the ballpark, the other one's probably off the wall," Mattingly said. "It's just the way it's going right now." Added Ramirez, "I hit it good." Mattingly said he feels the offense has been "a little bit flat" since the team's off-day on Aug. 18, and the numbers back up that claim. The Dodgers have averaged just two runs per game, and they have not scored more than three in any of the games in that stretch. The offense has struggled so much that starter Chad Billingsley (12-10) apologized for a quality start in which he yielded three runs on seven hits in six innings. Billingsley had issues with his command at times by walking five (two intentional), and he was unhappy he needed 107 pitches to get through just the six frames. "We're just putting too much pressure on our starters, because every single inning they don't want to give up anything, and in doing that, they're trying to make perfect pitches every time," Torre said. "You can't do that. One hand washes the other here. We need to work together so the pitchers don't feel like they're under that pressure constantly." When asked about how tough it is to pitch behind an offense that is not scoring, Billingsley said that is out of his control. "The only thing I can do is go out there and pitch," said Billingsley, who has yielded three runs or less in his past nine starts. "I've got to just worry about that, go out there, throw scoreless innings, keep the game close, whatever I can do." Despite the shutout loss -- Los Angeles' first since June 29 after being blanked eight times in the first three months of the season -- the Dodgers remained three games behind the D-backs in the National League West, thanks to Arizona's loss in San Diego. The defeat completed a four-game sweep by the Phillies this weekend, returning the favor from a four-game Dodgers sweep just over a week ago in Los Angeles. "You can probably run [Phillies manager] Charlie Manuel's thing last week and just put my name on it," Torre said. The Phillies quickly turned things around with eight wins in 10 games, a task the Dodgers would be hard-pressed to duplicate if they don't improve their clutch hitting.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.