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For Dodgers, stupid is as stupid does: Matt Kemp and Russell Martin give it away

June 24, 2010 |  7:01 am
Things are going so badly for the Dodgers right now, they’re actually inventing ways to lose.

Brain-dead, cover-the-eyes, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me, that-didn’t-really-happen ways.

Wednesday’s loss was so bad, so embarrassing that even Joe Torre -- who has the patience of a saint --  was as upset as he’s been at any time this season.

And with excellent reason.

Matt Kemp and Russell Martin had some kind of personal contest to see who could make the dumbest play getting picked off second base. And they both lost.

"You need more than ability to play this game," Torre said. "You need to be able to think. And we didn’t do a very good job of thinking tonight."

Where to begin? The Dodgers took their five-game losing streak into the ninth, trailing the Angels 2-1.

Kemp led off and reached on a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Wood, and pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard singled him to second. Reed Johnson ran for Belliard.

One out later, closer Brian Fuentes caught Kemp napping at second. He spun and cleanly picked him off. It’s a Fuentes move well known by the Dodgers, which made Kemp’s mental lockdown all the more unnerving.

"We’d talked about the move that he has, and we still got caught with it," Torre said. "That’s why we have information, because you need more than just the ability you were born with to play this game.

"You’re going to have to think, you’re going to have to keep your head in the game and understand that this other ball club is trying to beat you."

Kemp is an extremely talented athlete with a casual air about him. His baseball instincts are not the best, but it’s his mental mistakes and lack of focus that are most frustrating.

"I just got picked off," Kemp said. "There’s nothing really more you can say about it.

"I made a dumb play at the end that cost us the game. It’s one of those things. You just have to come back tomorrow and make something happen."

Just one of those things a Little Leaguer should know better.

After the pickoff, Martin drew a walk and Johnson advanced to second. Then pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll lifted a single to shallow left.

Johnson rounded third easily and headed home as left-fielder Juan Rivera fielded the hit and noticed Martin rounding wide of second. He fired to second and Howie Kendrick applied the tag for the out … just before Johnson touched home plate with what should have been the tying run.

The Angels rushed the field to celebrate, as Martin -- who replays indicated was actually safe -- slammed his helmet down in disgust.

"We gave it away," Torre said. "I thought Russell was safe getting himself back to second, but he can’t put himself in peril like that.

"It shouldn’t have been a situation where there was a play there. They weren’t going to throw Johnson out at the plate on that ball. That’s the guy we need to get home, the tying run. If we’re going to score the next guy, we’ll have to score him from second base.

"We certainly need to think a whole lot better than that."

Martin was still irritated with the call after the game, but conceded he had made a bad mistake.

"Now that you think about it, it’s just a dumb play,’’ Martin said. "Whether I get on third base or stay on second, I’m still in scoring position. It is an aggressive mistake, but it’s probably the last time I make it. I was still safe, though, you can let the umpire know."

That would be a little low on the to-do list for the Dodgers.

At some point, Torre may have his fill of Kemp’s continued poor base running, bad jumps on balls and his seemingly casual attitude.

"I’m very patient with players," Torre said. "I have no patience with mental mistakes. That’s all part of your game preparation. Ability can only get you so far. You have to be able to know how to use that ability.

"We’ve had some success here and guys have been around for a couple of years. You’re getting beyond that point where they’re young players.’’

They both came up in 2006. They both should know better.

"It’s not even fighting to get a win, it’s fighting to win a pennant,’’ Torre said. "You just can’t give games away. You’re going to get beat enough times without beating yourself. This certainly doesn’t feel good."

-- Steve Dilbeck
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