Dodgers-Rockies: The Biggest Series of Season

Tired and disinterested is no way for a team leader to look as his club prepares for the biggest series of the season, yet that is the vibe that Manny Ramirez now puts out for the Dodgers. The veteran Ramirez, who was putting a charge into a break-even Dodgers team at this point of the season last year, now may be hurting the club.

Despite an 18-19 record since the All-Star break, the Dodgers still had the best record in the National League heading into play Tuesday at 74-51. And they won three of four from the Cubs. But they scored just five runs in the last three games of that series.

Ramirez had just one hit in 11 at-bats in those three games. He batted .200 (5-for-25) on the Dodgers' just-completed seven game homestand, and was booed for some lackluster outfield play Sunday.

Many in the crowd of 49,711 booed lustily.

"I can't control that," Ramirez said about being booed. "They want to win and we want to win."

"I think he's trying to carry everybody on his shoulders," manager Joe Torre said. "He's getting overanxious at the plate."

In one of the more dramatic moments of the season, Ramirez came off the bench July 22 and hit a go-ahead grand slam in a victory over the Reds. Since that game, the Dodgers are 13-18.

"It's a long season and we have to do what we do," Ramirez said. "We can't think about Colorado and San Francisco or whatever. We have to focus on us."

Los Angeles (74-51) won 21 of its first 29 games and continued its strong play through the All-Star break, looking like it could run away with the division. Since taking a nine-game lead July 25, however, the Dodgers have gone 12-16.

In that same stretch, the wild-card leading Rockies (71-54), who were 15 games behind at one point, have gone 18-10 to climb within three games.

It looked like Colorado's surge would hit a setback when it fell behind 4-1 in the 14th inning against San Francisco on last night, but Adam Eaton walked with the bases loaded and Ryan Spillsborghs hit a walk-off grand slam to deliver a 6-4 victory. The Rockies' seventh win in eight games moved them four games ahead of the Giants in the division.

NOTES, QUOTES
--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo continues to look impressive since coming off the disabled list because of a left elbow strain. He has allowed two runs and three hits in 10.1 innings (13 games) since returning to the roster July 27. Both his runs came in an Aug. 7 game against the Braves.

--RHP Chad Billingsley's streak of five consecutive starts and 29.1 innings without allowing a home run was snapped when the Cubs' Jake Fox went deep in the second inning Sunday. Billingsley also had a streak of five consecutive homerless starts to open the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Consecutive games the Dodgers have held their opponent to four runs or less. The Dodgers' pitching staff has logged a 2.47 ERA over that stretch, which began Aug. 10. Despite the solid pitching, the Dodgers were just 7-6 during that run.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The only footsteps I hear are yours when you come to ask questions." -- 2B Orlando Hudson, to a reporter when asked in advance of the Dodgers series this week at Colorado if the team can feel the pressure being applied by the second-place Rockies.

ROSTER REPORT
--1B James Loney is the Dodger most looking forward to playing at Colorado this week. Loney, who doesn't have a home run at Dodger Stadium since Aug. 22 of last year, is heading to Coors Field, where he is batting .372 (35-for-94) in his career. He doesn't have a home run in Colorado this season, but is batting .520 (13-for-25) there in 2009.

--2B Orlando Hudson received a well-placed day off Sunday to give him a two-day break with Monday's off day. Hudson has just one hit in his last nine at-bats, which spanned his last three starts, and just two hits over his last four starts. Hudson has just one home run since the All-Star break. He hit two home runs July 12, the last day of the first half.

--INF Mark Loretta continues to look for consistency in his backup third base/first base role. He got consecutive starts for a sick James Loney at first base Saturday and Sunday but had just one hit in six official at-bats. He did have a stolen base Saturday, his first since April 2006. After batting .474 in April, Loretta batted .235 in May, .175 in June, .111 in July and .219 so far in August.

--LF Manny Ramirez, when asked about the hitting advantages of playing in the high altitude of Colorado, where the Dodgers open a three-game series Tuesday: "What's the difference between Dodger Stadium and Colorado? If I hit a ground ball to the pitcher will it be a home run?"

--LHP Clayton Kershaw will return Tuesday to the sight of one of the worst starts of his young career when he pitches at Coors Field against the Rockies. On April 26, Kershaw gave up nine runs on eight hits with four walks in 4 2/3 innings. He did show improvement in a start at Colorado one month later when he gave up three runs in six innings in a Dodgers victory. Kershaw's April 26 start is the only game in six tries the Dodgers have lost at Colorado this season.

*M*A*SH* 4777 MEDICAL WATCH:
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (concussion) was struck in the head by a line drive on Aug. 15. He was hospitalized overnight, but was released on Aug. 16. He went on the disabled list Aug. 19.

RHP Jason Schmidt (strained right shoulder) went on the 15-disabled list retroactive to Aug. 6.

OF Xavier Paul (staph infection) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 21, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 27. His recovery was slowed in July by a microfracture in his left ankle.

INF Doug Mientkiewicz (dislocated right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list April 17, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 30. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Albuquerque on July 28, then was slowed when he had problems throwing. He resumed action with Albuquerque on Aug. 10, and he hopes to be activated in September.

LHP Eric Milton (lower back strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28, and he was transferred to the 60-day disabled list July 20. He had surgery July 14, and he might miss the remainder of the season.

LHP Will Ohman (sore left shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 29, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 30. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on June 16, but he was shut down June 24 due to an ailing elbow.

    ROTATION:
   LHP Randy Wolf
   RHP Chad Billingsley
   LHP Clayton Kershaw
   RHP Jeff Weaver

    BULLPEN:
   RHP Jonathan Broxton 
   LHP George Sherrill
   RHP Guillermo Mota
   LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
   RHP Ramon Troncoso
   RHP Ronald Belisario
   RHP James McDonald
   RHP Charlie Haeger
   
    CATCHERS:
   Russell Martin
   Brad Ausmus
   
    INFIELDERS:
   1B James Loney
   2B Orlando Hudson
   SS Rafael Furcal
   3B Casey Blake
   INF Juan Castro
   INF Mark Loretta
   INF Tony Abreu

    OUTFIELDERS:
   LF Manny Ramirez
   CF Matt Kemp
   RF Andre Ethier
   OF Juan Pierre

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