And the Beat[ings] Goes On

The late Commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote, "Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game beings in the spring, when everything else begins again. And it blooms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings and then, as soon as the chill rains comes, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

"You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skys alive, and then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."

He wasn't writing about the Dodgers, but he might have been.

Los Angeles hit into four double plays in a 2-1 loss at Washington and have lost a season-high fifth game in a row and seven of eight. They have scored three runs or less in eight straight games and in nine of their last 10 and are averaging just under two runs per game (15 in eight games).

Although the slump is certainly keeping them awake at night, they still are only three games behind Arizona, who lost when San Diego handed Brandon Webb his fifth loss to go with his 19 wins.

Slumps are part of baseball, have infected the greatest players in the games history, and they seem to be self-perpetuating. When an entire team goes into a swoon, each individual takes it upon himself to turn things around and usually makes things worse.

Derek Lowe (10-11) once again did about everything right, allowing six hits and two runs while completing eight innings. He threw 117 pitches and two of them cost the game.

He surrendered a solo homer to Lastings Milledge in the second and an RBI single to Cristian Guzman in the third, then kept the Nationals off the scoreboard the rest of the way and took a two-hitter into the sixth.

It isn't as if the Dodgers aren't hitting the ball hard. You can't turn double plays on balls that are hit gently, and Washington's Ryan Zimmerman turned the game around by starting four rally-killers and just missing a fifth.

Wise beyond his years, Russell Martin said, "We probably should try to stay away from him tomorrow."

Nomar Garciaparra bounced into a 5-4-3 double play with two on in the second; Matt Kemp hit into another in the third; Garciaparra lined into an unassisted d.p. in the sixth with the bases loaded and Martin bounced into another 5-4-3 in the eighth.

In the fifth, with the bases loaded, Zimmerman gobbled up a shot by Kemp, touched third and his throw to the plate beat Garciaparra easily but the catcher thought it was a force play and didn't tag Nomar, who scored the only Dodgers run of the game, thus breaking the Dodgers 17-inning scoring drought.

"We've just been extremely unlucky right now, which is kind of crazy," Garciaparra said. "We're doing the right things, but the luck's not happening, things aren't falling at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, in baseball, it's one of those things, it's harder than any other sport -- you can do everything right and still have a negative result."

In the sixth, Manny Ramirez (who was 3-for-4), doubled and James Loney singled with none out but nothing came of it.

The Dodgers had one final chance in the ninth inning. Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan (the one-time Dodgers standout) retired Garciaparra before Casey Blake singled up the middle and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney walked.

Kemp was thrown five straight balls but unfortunately he swung at two of them, then missed the only strike of the sequence.

Andre Ethier, who along with Kemp went 0-for-5 in the game, grounded to first base to end things.

"We're having trouble scoring runs, and everybody probably goes up there squeezing the sawdust out of the bats," manager Joe Torre said. "I don't think there's any magic formula other than keep going out there and fighting the frustration we seem to be experiencing."

To make it even more painful, the Nationals won for only the third time in 17 games and broke a six-game home losing streak. They had also lost six straight to the Dodgers and had been 0-5 all-time vs. Lowe.

This must be the bottom; there is nowhere to go but up.

Lowe put his finger on the problem. "In this game, I think trying harder normally doesn't get you anywhere, but that's such a hard thing to fight," he said. "You can't give 110 percent. I think that's where we are. There's no lack of preparation, there's no such thing as guys not trying. As a collective group, sometimes you've got to try less to get more.

"There is no feeling sorry for yourself, and you can't wish things didn't happen the way they did because they are already in the record books. We've got to come out tomorrow and continue to keep playing the way we are, as crazy as that sounds. We can't try to change things, maybe just relax as a collective group, and hopefully things will change."

Perhaps it is better that if such an ugly slump had to come, it came with over a month to play in the season. These things don't last forever, although it seems as if they do, and since Arizona is stumbling along as well, there is still a solid chance to turn the season around.

And who better to do it than tonight's starter Greg Maddux?

Maddux (6-10, 4.25 ERA), sailed through the first three innings of his initial start with the Dodgers, retiring nine in a row on only 23 pitches, 19 of them strikes. Then everything blew up in his face. He had compiled a 2-1 record and a 1.89 ERA in three quality starts with San Diego before Los Angeles acquired him.

Washington counters with RHP Tim Redding (8-8, 4.54 ERA), who hasn't won a game since Aug. 4. However, in his last start he pitched six innings and gave up one run against the Phillies.

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	000 010 000-1
Washington	011 000 00x-2

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Kemp cf	        5  0  0  1  .295
Ethier rf	5  0  0  0  .274
Kent 2b	        4  0  1  0  .282
Ramirez lf	4  0  3  0  .379
Loney 1b	3  0  1  0  .297
Martin c	4  0  1  0  .288
Garciaparra ss	3  1  0  0  .235
Blake 3b	2  0  1  0  .255
 Ozuna pr	0  0  0  0  .167
Lowe p	        2  0  0  0  .151
 Sweeney ph	0  0  0  0  .151
 Pierre pr	0  0  0  0  .277
  Totals	32 1 7 1
  Washington	29 2 6 2

 Two base hits- Ramirez (4), RBI- Kemp (66).
LOB- Los Angeles 10, Washington 5.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Lowe (10-11)	8.0  6  2-2  1  6  3.81
 T- 2:36. Att- 26,110.
Hershiser: 'Dodgers passionless'
Manager Joe Torre took exception to comments made by former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser during the ESPN2 broadcast of Monday night's loss at Philadelphia.

Torre had been told of them secondhand, and Hershiser, who served as an in-game analyst for the cable channel, declined a request from Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News immediately after that game to clarify what he had said on the air.

"Just listen to the broadcast," Hershiser told Jackson. "I don't want to say it for the paper."

Hershiser stated the Dodgers' were passionless.

"I don't know where that came from, Torre said. "For me, I don't think there is any prototypical passionate team that has guys hanging from lockers and stuff. This game really is about determination more than showing somebody else what they think it should look like."

Hershiser also said during the broadcast that part of the Dodgers problems was the fact that, although they have a number of talented players, they are pretty much divided into a young group and an old group, with no players, save Rafael Furcal who hasn't played since May, in their prime.

He pointed out that the club is inconsistent, a symptom of both younger and older players.

Torre also disagreed with comments made by third-base coach Larry Bowa to the Los Angeles Times after a recent loss.

Bowa had said, "I've seen teams play like this when they're 30 games out. There's no excuse for it. ... We should all be embarrassed by the way we've played the last four days." Torre said understands Bowa's frustration, joking that the third-base coach has to carry on a conversation with a player who stands at third for three outs, but disagreed with the remarks.

Torre pointed out, "I think you have to understand, Bowa's like a player right now. When you lose four games in a row, no one says, 'Oh yeah, everything's great.' The reason I wanted him here is he's a tough love guy. ... I think my job and the coaches' job is to just try to keep things in perspective and do some challenging, too."

Duncan to Manage
First base coach Mariano Duncan said he will manage the La Romana club in the Dominican Republic this winter. He said he is not yet sure whether he wants to manage in the majors. "I want to see if I like it," he said.

Infielder Angel Berroa and pitcher Ramon Troncoso of the Dodgers are expected to play for La Romana this winter, Duncan said.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Cory Wade is tentatively scheduled to be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for tonight's game. Wade, who has been sidelined since Aug. 14 with right shoulder inflammation, threw 13 pitches in a one-inning rehabilitation appearance for Great Lakes, then threw 13 more pitches in the bullpen. ...Scott Proctor, out with right elbow tendinitis, threw a scoreless inning for Las Vegas in a rehab appearance. He yielded one hit and struck out a batter. ...Injured right-handers Brad Penny (right shoulder) and Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgery) were to meet with Dr. Neal ElAtrrache, just back from the Olympic games in China. After that, Penny will begin throwing for the first time since his Aug. 13 start and Schmidt will make a one-inning Minor League appearance for Las Vegas. Schmidt is also scheduled to pitch in Las Vegas' season finale on Monday. ...Manny Ramirez recorded just his second multi-hit game since Aug. 11 with Tuesday's 3-for-4 performance. His sixth-inning double was his first two-bagger since Aug. 11 and his first extra-base hit since homering on Aug. 17. ...Derek Lowe threw his 15th quality start of the season. ...The Los Angeles' bullpen entered the game holding opponents to a .237 batting average since June 9, the second-lowest mark in the National League behind only Washington (.235). ...Rafael Aybar, 18-year-old shortstop for the Dodgers' Dominican Summer League entry, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for steroids.

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