Whatever the problem is behind the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stunning early season slide, it doesn’t appear to be slugging center fielder Matt Kemp, or, at least, his fault exclusively.
Kemp appears to have snapped out of his deep slump, and yet the Dodgers on Saturday lost a double-header to the Baltimore Orioles in disappointing fashion.
The 7-5, 6-1 losses extended the Dodgers’ losing streak to six, and they have lost seven of their last eight. They are now 7-10 on the season.
It marks one of the worst starts by a Dodgers team, with the slide dating back to The Brawl -- the bench-clearing fight in San Diego April 11 in which Padre slugger Carlos Quentin rushed the mound after being hit by a pitch. Zack Greinke’s collarbone was broken in the melee.
Quentin may have broken the Dodgers’ spirit as well. They are 1-7 since then.
“I wouldn’t say it’s snowballing at all,” said Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier who homered in the first game. “It’s that you’re looking for that break rather than making it happen.”
So who's at fault for the Dodgers' debacle? Here’s where to lay some of the blame:
-- Reliever Ronald Belisario, who this season has allowed all six runners he inherited to score.
-- Add bullpen mate Paco Rodriguez.
They blew game 1 in the eighth inning Saturday, when, with the score even at 5-5, Rodriguez put two runners on base, and Belisario, as if on cue, gave up a two-run double to the Orioles' Nolan Reimold that decided the game.
-- General Manager Ned Colletti, who has squandered a $240 milllion payroll into a roster of pampered, unproductive young millionaires and worthless scrubs.
-- Manager Don Mattingly, who seems unable, just jinxed or unlucky when it comes to making the right moves at best times. What did this guy do, stumble in a looking glass store and break dozens of mirrors?
“It was one of those days, really,” Mattingly said after the game. “It just seems like the first game, it seems like everything we did just didn’t want to go our way. But that’s alright.”
The latest example of Mattingly’s misfortune occurred in the nightcap of the doubleheader when he pressed his luck with starter Josh Beckett, who was obviously struggling going in the sixth inning.
Beckett had been banged around for two runs in the fifth, and in the sixth he had put two runners on base with two outs and had thrown 107 pitches.
Beckett was coming off pitching a marvelous game last Sunday in Arizona, but he had been much sharper then.
“I thought Josh was good, not as sharp as the last time out, but I still thought he was good," Mattingly told reporters Saturday night. "He kept us in the game.”
Trailing 3-1 but with the game still winnable, Beckett needed to come out of the game.
But Mattingly chose not to make a move at that point, and watched a struggling Beckett miss his spot and give up a three-run dinger to Manny Machado.
“I thought that there like Manny, that we needed to give (Beckett) a shot,” Mattingly said. “It was his game at that point. He’d pitched well, and that pretty much was his last hitter.
“But he kept us in the game. He gave us a chance."
At 6-1, with their unproductive offense, the Dodgers were done.
Kemp went 3-for-5 in the first game and Ethier hit a three-run homer in the first inning that gave the Dodgers an early lead. Second baseman Mark Ellis was 2-for-3.
Starter Hyun-Jin Ryu left after six innings, trailing 5-4, but the Dodgers tied the game in the seventh only to see the bullpen falter in the eighth.
In the nightcap, the Dodgers’ offense returned to its old unproductive self, getting only four hits, two by Jerry Hairston Jr., who played right field while Ethier batted in the designated hitter spot.
Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Ethier were hitless in the second game.
What has happened to the offense, and does it puzzle the team’s pricey hitters themselves?
“It’s past puzzling,” Ethier said after the game. “It’s beyond belief.”