08/30/08 2:38 AM ET
Reeling Dodgers fall to D-backs
LA drops 4 1/2 games behind for first time in two months
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Not the Dodgers.
With pretty much the entire front office from chairman Frank McCourt on down in town as witnesses, their club's tailspin continued Friday night. The losing streak reached eight with a 9-3 pounding by the D-backs in the opener of a showdown series, the Dodgers falling 4 1/2 games out for the first time in two months.
"Right now, it's not even a matter of who we play," said manager Joe Torre, whose club has already been swept by Philadelphia and Washington on this trip.
"We're struggling. We're not helping ourselves with defense. We need to find a way to get this straightened out. There's still plenty of time to play the kind of baseball we had played over the last couple months. But the last couple of weeks have been ugly. That has to change."
It didn't seem to matter that McCourt showed up for the pregame team meeting, or Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda or general manager Ned Colletti or five of his assistants. The Dodgers still wasted 12 hits, stranded 10 baserunners, allowed four unearned runs and had 40-year-old Jeff Kent leave with a left knee injury that appears serious.
Manny Ramirez had four of the hits and scored two of the runs, but nothing else was working, not even Torre's decision to bat Russell Martin leadoff and drop Matt Kemp to fifth. The Dodgers still loaded the bases in the first inning, still came away scoreless. Martin went 1-for-5 without a run; Kemp was 1-for-4 with an RBI.
They've lost all eight games on this trip and are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Rockies, who lived the dream in last year's miracle stretch run and seem to be trying it again.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are living a nightmare. They led this game, 2-1, going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Starter Hiroki Kuroda retired the first 10 batters, but with a single and walk, the Diamondbacks had two on and no out in the bottom of the fifth, when Augie Ojeda tapped a bouncer to shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, whose throw to second base sailed into right field.
The error led to two additional unearned runs. Garciaparra offered no excuses.
"I threw it away," he said. "When he hit it, I thought maybe it could be a double play, but it didn't get to me fast enough so I changed my motion throwing to Jeff and it just got away."
Arizona put the game out of reach with a four-run seventh inning, two of the runs again unearned on another error charged to Garciaparra. The scoring on that one, however, was tough, as the infielders were drawn in with the bases loaded and the ball took a nasty hop off Garciaparra's wrist.
Nonetheless, this loss had a little bit of everything that went wrong in the previous seven. The Dodgers had runners in scoring position in five innings but scored in only two of those. Kuroda preceded Garciaparra's first error by walking Chris Snyder on four consecutive balls after getting ahead, 0-2.
"That was a backbreaker," Torre said of the walk by Kuroda, whose five innings was his shortest outing in a month.
The bullpen, for most of the season the club's most consistent weapon, allowed five runs over the final three innings. Scott Elbert, the club's top pick in the 2004 Draft, faced three batters in his Major League debut and struck out two with a walk. But Chan Ho Park, so effective the first half of the season, was charged with four runs (three earned) in one-third of an inning and has allowed runs in five of his past six outings.
"It comes down to us," Torre said. "We have to come to the park not just hoping something good happens. We have to be more proactive and assert ourselves, but that's tough when you're not playing well. We have to go out and earn our money. This is where it becomes work."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.