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08/28/08 12:09 AM ET
Three homers can't stop Dodgers' skid
Loney, Blake, Ethier go yard in loss at hands of Nationals
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Another loss, more missed opportunities at the plate and no ground lost in the standings made the Dodgers' 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday like just about every other game on this disastrous road trip. Los Angeles went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position to bring the club's four-game total in that category to 5-for-50, but another D-backs loss kept the Dodgers safely three games back in a division nobody seems to want to win. "I look at it as missed opportunities," said manager Joe Torre. "Sure, we could be farther behind, but we could be ahead, also." Los Angeles lost its season-high eighth straight road game and ninth of 11 overall to drop three games under .500 for the first time since July 23. But earlier in the day, the team watched Arizona drop its fourth straight contest and fifth out of six, meaning the Dodgers have lost just one game in the National League West standings on this 0-6 road trip. But Matt Kemp was in no mood to revel in the D-backs' misfortune after his second straight 0-for-5 outing against the last-place Nationals. "I don't care about the Diamondbacks," Kemp said. "We don't care about them, we have to worry about what's going on here. If we take care of our business, then the standings will come out if we keep on winning. We're not worried about the Diamondbacks, just like they're probably not worried about us." Kemp found himself up at the plate with a golden opportunity to finally break through for the Dodgers in the top of the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs and one run already in, but he lifted a fly to left to end the threat. "I just popped the ball up," Kemp said. Such an at-bat has become a constant theme on this road trip. Torre sees his players trying hard but forcing the issue, describing his club using the story of when Lou Brock told a young player that he was doing everything right -- besides not breathing. "We get men in scoring position, and we make outs," Torre said. "We just can't seem to sustain any momentum with a rally, and that's the frustrating part. I'm confident that once we straighten it out, everybody will start relaxing and we'll start putting some wins together, but we have to get that first one." The Dodgers showed signs of breaking out of their offensive doldrums on Wednesday, getting solo home runs from Andre Ethier, James Loney and Casey Blake to score a road trip-high four runs after scoring just six in the first five games combined. Ethier added a pair of doubles, and Loney had a double included in his three hits. That was not enough on a night the Dodgers committed two critical errors that led to two unearned runs. On one play, 17-time Gold Glove winner Greg Maddux threw toward second to try to start an inning-ending double play but hit Jeff Kent backing up the play instead of Nomar Garciaparra covering the bag, allowing a run to score. Kent's fielding error an inning later led to another run. "Tonight we didn't help ourselves defensively," Torre said. "We made it a little tougher." Those two extra runs made a loser of Maddux (6-11), who allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has allowed 17 hits in 11 innings since being acquired and has compiled a 7.36 ERA. Now the Dodgers have to live with a losing streak that has continued even after paying a visit to the club with the worst record in the Majors, a team they had beaten in their previous six contests before this trip. Blake said there's nothing anybody can say to spark the Dodgers out of this rut, adding that skids like this are just part of the game. "It's real frustrating going through it," Blake said. "In these times you see what kind of a man you are, you see what you're made of, how you hold your composure. Certainly we don't want to be OK with losing. We didn't get it done. You've got to maintain a consistent level of confidence." In the past week Torre has tried closed-door meetings, canceling batting practice and staying his usual calm self, but six games into a road trip that would be sinking their season if the D-backs had not struggled so much as well, nothing has worked. "It doesn't feel good to go out there and lose, especially when we know we're capable of doing a lot of good things," Kemp said. "We didn't play bad today, but we didn't play good enough to win, so we've got to step up our game tomorrow and go get them."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.