09/22/10 2:12 AM ET
Carroll, Ellis bright spots in tough day for LA
Reserves stay hot despite 17th shutout, playoff elimination
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
It went official in the sixth inning, when the Giants beat the Cubs, and the Dodgers completed the dismal evening by getting shut out by Clayton Richard and the Padres, 6-0, with Ryan Ludwick driving in four runs.
It was Richard's first career shutout, but for the Dodgers it was their 17th this year, the most since 1989 and the league high this year. They have lost five of their last six and have matched a season-high 12 games out of first place. The Dodgers out-hit the Padres, 8-7 but were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
It's been pretty much the same story throughout the last two months.
"Through the first half we were able to contend," said outgoing manager Joe Torre. "Unfortunately, the second half started badly and we never recovered from it. It's head-scratching. I must admit, when we left Spring Training, I knew we'd score runs. In the first half, we were fourth or fifth in offense and we just hit a wall."
Two bright spots, though, were on display Tuesday night: Jamey Carroll and A.J. Ellis had two hits each.
Carroll might have been the team's most valuable player, a double-edge sword for a utilityman. He's hitting .295, but he plays hurt and at full-speed whether the team is 12 games above .500 (as it was June 9) or five games below, as it is now.
"I get frustrated like anybody else," said Carroll. "Maybe I try to take out my frustrations on other things. It wears on you when things aren't going right, but you still realize you have a job to do and you still play hard."
Even while playing with a broken finger, a sprained wrist and plantar fasciitis, he's hitting .361 in September.
"I was taught you leave it out there as much as you possibly can," he said. "A lot of people pay attention from where I'm from and where I've played and I play out of respect for their support."
His teammates have noticed.
"Up and down the lineup, nobody really had good years maybe outside of Jamey Carroll," said third baseman Casey Blake. "Nobody really had the kind of year they're capable of having. Jamey Carroll's been our most consistent performer all year."
Carroll is a veteran with a guaranteed contract for 2011. Ellis is a rookie catcher trying to erase several months of offensive struggles with a new swing that has resulted in a bat on fire. He is 9-for-11 in the last three games and his 2-for-3 in this loss had added meaning because he felt a little out of sorts doing it.
"[Hitting coach Jeff] Pentland says you can get away with a lot more when the swing path is right and I showed that tonight, because I wasn't in the best position, but I was able to get away with it," said Ellis, who will compete for a catching job in Spring Training. "You can be a little off and still put a good swing and get good results."
That was about it for good results in this game. The Dodgers helped Richard by bouncing into three double plays and starting pitcher Chad Billingsley fell behind early.
He allowed a pair of two-out runs on Ludwick's single in the third inning, then grazed two batters with inside pitches in a three-run fifth inning. He was charged with five runs in five innings, suffering a sixth loss in his last eight decisions and squaring his record at 11-11.
"Those two innings, I couldn't find my way out of it," said Billingsley.
Rule 5 rookie Carlos Monasterios, who will have trouble making the Major League staff next spring, threw two scoreless innings and lowered his ERA as a reliever to 2.06 in 35 innings.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.