Second baseman Dee Gordon #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers flips the ball to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez #23 to complete a double play after tagging out Justin Morneau #33 of the Colorado Rockies to end the top of the 11th inning at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Dodgers players surely packed their gloves as the team embarks on a nine-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Minnesota, but if they plan to have any success they'll have to start using them.
The defense has been unsteady, at best, this season, and Sunday against the Colorado Rockies it was at its worst. LA committed three errors, Justin Turner throwing, Hyun-Jin Ryu fielding, and Matt Kemp dropping a fly ball, giving the Dodgers 26 on the year, tied with the Washington Nationals for most in the majors.
Manager Don Mattingly says he can live with the physical mistakes, like Juan Uribe getting handcuffed by a one-hop bullet hit to him at third base, because it's not called the "hot corner" for nothing. He just gets irked by the mental ones.
"That's the reason why we continue to stay with it, and, I think, that's the hard part for guys," Mattingly said, adding, "It always has been, because you get attention for hitting a home run...but you don't really get attention for playing solid defense and backing up bases, unless something bad happens."
The bad has also cost them games. Take April 22, when left fielder Carl Crawford and shortstop Hanley Ramirez turned a 10th-inning, routine pop fly into a Ringling Bros. Circus act. Of course, the ball fell in, the runner ended up on second base, the next batter doubled him home, and the Dodgers lost 3-2.
In his customary post-game news conference after that one, Mattingly, frankly, said what needed to be said.
"We just got to get better...we're not going to do anything if we don't play better defense."
The argument that maybe the defense has had to handle more balls put in play doesn't really work, because the pitching staff is second in the majors with 234 strikeouts, and eighth in all of baseball with 84 walks.
The constant shuffling of outfielders makes it tough for the five who play regularly for the Dodgers to know each other's tendencies. Communication and knowing who can get to what, is just as important as catching fly balls.
On the flipside, LA is second in MLB with 728 putouts in 1042 total chances.
But, if they're going to improve their .975 fielding percentage, third-worst in the majors, they'll need to start packing leather on the field, and not just for the plane ride.