Pitching, Offense Break Down in Loss

Commissioner Bart Giamatti's well-quoted, "It breaks your heart. It was meant to break your heart ..." must have been written about the Dodgers, not baseball in general. L.A. teased with an eight-game winning streak but then disappeared below the waves without leaving as much as an oil slick. Another anonymous pitcher handled them and handed them a 5-3 loss in the first game at Milwaukee .

Rafael Furcal's loss has been the peg used to hang the slump on but it is much deeper than that. It is unrealistic to think the injured shortstop could hit .366 all season long. Perhaps it is the youthfulness of the club, but no one has stepped up to fill even a part of his loss and the starting pitching has been just to the left of horrendous.

Chad Billingsley got off to a stumbling start and has never recovered. Derek Lowe's sinker won't sink if it is thrown shoulder-high. Brad Penny's pitches don't move much when they are over-thrown. Hiroki Kuroda has pitched well but the bullpen has blown three of his wins.

The fifth-starting slot has been by committee, and like committees, has been ineffective. Clayton Kershaw, who dazzled the world during spring training, has been sent to the minors and wrapped in cotton so he would not be damaged. And after seven beautiful starts, and one questionable relief effort, he finally had a bad night and the brass decided there was no way they could use him if he pitched that way.

"We want to be certain he will be able to pitch in October," was the company line but the way they are playing, October action would mean the Arizona Fall League for him.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

In their last six games, five of them losses, the Dodgers are batting only .234 and averaging 2.5 runs. Before that, they were hitting .283 and scoring more than twice as often.

Brad Penny (5-4), who has given up 15 runs in his last 10.2 innings, started and was acceptable in the first game of a weird three-game road trip. But his teammates supplied only three runs, all coming in the first four innings, then managed just two hits over the final five.

Jeff Kent, who didn't get a hit on the last homestand, is one for his last 22 at-bats. Andruw Jones, who was supposed to lead the team in home runs, leads the team instead with 38 strikeouts, and has been benched the last two games with a .170 average, some 70 points under his weight.

Spordically-used Andre Ethier hasn't driven in a run in nine days and rookie Chin-Lung Hu, who was supposed to be Furcal's replacement when Raffy's contract runs out after this year, is batting .154 with only one run scored in May.

All five runs Penny gave up Tuesday came with two outs, two on two-strike pitches. But the biggest mistake Penny made was walking pitcher Carlos Villanueva, a .143 hitter, on four pitches to open the fifth inning. That started a three-run rally in which the Brewers turned a 3-2 deficit into a winning, 5-3 lead.

To put the bitter icing on the cake, old friend Eric Gagné, jerked from the closer role after blowing five of his previous 14 save chances, came in to save his first against the Dodgers.

He allowed a leadoff single to Russ Martin before getting Blake DeWitt to hit into a fielder's choice and Mark Sweeney to fly out. DeWitt advanced to second on a passed ball, and Gagné walked Andrew Jones before getting Juan Pierre to pop out.

The New York Mets knocked Penny out in the fifth inning May 7 after torching him for a career-worst 10 earned runs on 10 hits and that was the game that started the sudden slide by the Dodgers.

L.A took a 1-0 lead in the first against Villanueva, who came into the game 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA. When Matt Kemp doubled and Jeff Kent looped a two-out RBI single into center. They boosted the lead to 2-0 on a two-out in the third when Pierre scratched out a hit and went to second when the ball was thrown away. Kemp singled him in. In the fourth, James Loney tripled and Martin made it 3-1 with an RBI single.

Martin added two more singles after the fourth inning to boost his average to .302 but that was the extent of the Los Angeles offense.

"Furcal does a lot for us," Torre said. "But for us to sit here and say that's the reason we're not winning, that's certainly not the case. Don't get me wrong. He's missed. The young kid that's playing [Chin-lung Hu] is doing the best he can. We still need to pitch better."

"Our outfielders certainly don't owe us anything -- Pierre, Kemp and [Andre] Ethier have done well. Raffy was hitting .360, .370. We do miss him. But if we're going to live there and say we can't win without him, we're basically packing up the tent and we can't do that. Is it tough? No question. It just means everybody has to do a little bit more."

The Dodgers will send RHP Derek Lowe (2-3, 4.43 ERA) to the mound tonight to face LHP Manny Parra (1-2, 5.79 ERA). Lowe followed his bad start at Coors Field with another at home against the Astros, allowing six runs in 5.1 innings. Lowe hasn't gone more than 5.1 innings in any of his last five starts.

?Like Lowe, Parra has not pitched more than 5.1 innings in any of his seven starts, but against the Cardinals he allowed three early runs, then settled down over his final three innings and retired the final nine men he faced.

Los Angeles slid to 19-19 on the season and when Arizona bumped Colorado, dropped another game behind in the standings and now trail by 4 1/2.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	101 100 000-3
Milwaukee	001 130 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	5  1  1  0  .277
Ethier rf	4  0  0  0  .295
Kemp cf	        3  1  2  1  .321
Kent 2b	        4  0  1  1  .250
Loney 1b	4  1  1  0  .285
Martin c	4  0  3  1  .302
DeWitt 3b	4  0  1  0  .320
Hu ss	        3  0  0  0  .196
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .148
Penny p	        1  0  0  0  .250
 Young ph	1  0  0  0  .292
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Jones ph	0  0  0  0  .170
  Totals	34 3  9 3
  Milwaukee	33 5 10 5

 2b hits- Kemp (9). 3b hits- Loney (2).
RBI- Kent (19), Kemp (26), Martin (15).
S- Penny. LOB- Los Angeles 7, Milwaukee

 Los Angeles 	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Penny (5-4)	6.0  9  5-1  1  6  5.09
Wade	        2.0  1  0-0  2  1  1.86
 T- 2:43. Att- 26.465.
Nomar Not Ready Yet
Garciaparra ran a little bit in the outfield during workouts, but the left calf still isn't ready for prime time. "I felt like I could push it more, so that was good," he said. "I was able to run harder. But at the same time, I couldn't do as much as I wanted to do. There was some tightness and some soreness there, so I had to back off. I did push it to the ceiling, but I still need some time. There is no need to go backward."

Nomar will have a tough time replacing rookie Blake DeWitt, who came into the game leading the team with a .323 average, tops among rookies in the N.L.

Kershaw 'Doubtful'
After Clayton Kershaw allowed Mobile five runs in 3.1 innings, and having worked an inning in relief a few days before, it was decided the fifth starting spot will go to Chan Ho Park or Hong-Chih Kuo against the Angeles.

The club seems determined to keep him in the minor leagues as long as possible, saying they would need him in October and that he would be held to a total of 170 innings. So far he has thrown 36.2. "They had him lined up, but he didn't pitch very well," said Torre. "We haven't made the decision, but to me, it's doubtful."

After the start against the Angels, the Dodgers won't need a fifth starter again until May 27 but seemingly that would fit right into the conservation of innings for the young man.

Mattingly Finds a Flaw
Andruw Jones had an eight-pitch walk in the ninth inning against the Brewers and said, "I was working with Don Mattingly, (who recently joined the club from his Indiana home) and we looked at film, way back to 1998-99 and we saw something in my footwork that was locking me up," said Jones. "That's why I was pulling off and not staying inside the ball."

Jones said he will does not expect be in the lineup the next two games against the Brewers. "He told me he was giving me a few days to work with Donnie and get my mind straightened out," he said.

Dodger Blue Notes-- James Loney's triple in the fourth inning extended his hitting streak to six games. ...Cory Wade followed Brad Penny with two scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.86. ...James McDonald was named Southern League pitcher of the week for last week. ... Former Dodgers third baseman Todd Zeile and the club will be honored Thursday at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual fundraiser gala, "Finding a Cure: A Love Story," at the Beverly Hilton. ...Hall of Fame manager and special advisor to the chairman Tommy Lasorda will give the commencement address to the 2008 graduating class of Argosy University Friday.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories