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Category: Ronnie Belliard

Dodgers fall nine games back as losing streak hits six with 10-5 loss to Padres

Gloom felt omnipresent, on the bases, at the plate and, on this night, even on the mound.

There was no real news to come from the Dodgers on Monday, only more failed repetition. More questions lacking answers, more blank stares.

The Dodgers fell deeper into their hole, the light growing still dimmer after they suffered their sixth consecutive loss, falling 10-5 to the Padres.

The loss dropped the Dodgers to a season-high nine games back of the Padres in the National League West.

Even on a night when the offense showed signs of life, too often Dodgers had trouble getting out of their own way. The defense committed two errors. Matt Kemp had a career-high five hits but another base-running blunder. And the pitching, the one thing that had been solid even during the skid, crumbled.

The Dodgers collected 14 hits, their most in a game since July 3, and they weren't even close to earning their first victory in six games.

The Dodgers managed seven hits in the first three innings alone -- yet failed to score.

In the first, the Dodgers got two-out singles from Kemp and James Loney. Casey Blake followed with a sharp single to center, and Kemp rounded third and headed home for what should have been an easy run.

Only Loney tried to go from first to third on the hit and just was tagged for the third out … before Kemp, running at something much less than full speed, was able to cross the plate.

Earlier this season, the Dodgers lost 2-1 to the Angels in Anaheim when Russell Martin took too wide a turn at second and was tagged out before Reed Johnson touched the plate. Earlier in that inning, Kemp had been picked off second by Brian Fuentes.

The game remained scoreless until the Padres broke through with four runs against Hiroki Kuroda (8-10) in the fourth. Will Venable, hitting .229, broke the scoreless affair by powering a three-run homer.

And that should have been the end of the Padres scoring in the inning, but after a Chris Denoria single, San Diego starter Clayton Richard (9-5) bunted a sacrifice in front of the plate.

Martin fielded it and elected to fire to second, but the throw was off for an error. Miguel Tejada blooped a two-run single to center, and the Padres led 5-0.

The Dodgers got two runs on singles by pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard and Kemp in the bottom of the inning, but the Padres got both back against suddenly struggling Jeff Weaver.

Chase Headley added a three-run homer against Weaver in the sixth, and it was 10-2 Padres. And the night was looking just a tad too familiar to the Dodgers.

Not the two runs the Dodgers added in the sixth, not Kemp’s 18th home run of the season in the eighth were going to ease the gloom of another loss.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Matt Kemp returns to Dodgers' lineup, but is Blake DeWitt now a platoon player at second? [Updated]

Matt Kemp returned to the lineup Wednesday and Andre Ethier was given the day off as scheduled, despite Manny Ramirez being out with his sore hamstring.

Dewitt_400 And yet was the biggest lineup news that Blake DeWitt was on the bench again? On the bench for the fifth time in seven games?

Manager Joe Torre has apparently gone to an unannounced platoon at second, sitting the left-handed-hitting DeWitt against left-handed starting pitchers.

DeWitt was on the bench Wednesday against left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, just as he was Monday against left-hander Barry Zito. Just as he was against Yankees left-handers Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia last weekend.

This happened occasionally earlier in the season, but now seems a regular lineup feature.

It isn’t like DeWitt is hitting much worse against lefties (.250) than righties (.265). The only significant difference in any of his stats is he’s hitting .340 in day games and .234 at night. And Wednesday is a day game.

Although his defense at second has continued to improve -- he’s a converted  third baseman -- at the plate, he’s been flat all season. No serious slumps, but no specific signs of improvement.

Overall, DeWitt is batting .263 with one home run, 24 RBI and 21 runs.

Jamey Carroll, meanwhile, is batting .287 and has scored four more runs in almost 30 fewer at-bats. Carroll started at third for Casey Blake Wednesday, while the right-handed Ronnie Belliard started at second.

Torre clearly wants more out of second base, and the platoon could signal trouble for DeWitt’s immediate future, particularly if Carroll continues to perform.

[Updated at 12:50 p.m. Wednesday: Torre said during his pregame media meeting that it hasn't been decided whether to place Ramirez on the disabled list. He is scheduled to have an MRI Thursday during the team's off-day in Phoenix.

"We're going to have to do whatever the conservative thing is with Manny," Torre told reporters in San Francisco. ``It's still pretty early in the season.’’

Torre also had no comment on an report that part of the reason Kemp was benched for three days was because of an argument he got into with a coach in the dugout.]

"We move on," he said.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Blake DeWitt makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Angels' Mike Napoli on June 22. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press.

An 8-6 Yankees comeback couldn't sink the perfectionist in Pettitte

You would think Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte would be relieved sitting in the dugout after the Yankees’ 8-6 win in 10 innings against the Dodgers.

He pitched five innings, gave up six hits and five runs before his teammates came thundering back to score six runs in the final two innings.

Pettitte was excited about the win and the dramatic fashion in which it came.

Still, he harped on his own performance,. He gave up three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth, including a solo home run by Ronnie Belliard.

“I just felt like I gave the game to them,” he said. “With the bad throws that I made. I gave them three runs in that inning and that was hard to swallow.”

Pettitte was asked whether he’d take away the great come-from-behind win or kick himself after that third inning. You can guess his response.

“As a startiing pitcher, I want to go seven to eight innings,” he said. “I’m kicking myself. I‘m kicking myself on the throws and then on a few pitch selections that I had.”

But you can only kick yourself for so long. Pettitte was asked other questions and continued to reflect on the great performance of his teammates.

“What a great win for us,” he said. “Great comeback.”

-- DeAntae Prince

Another Yankees pitcher struggles with Dodgers

For the second straight game, a Yankees pitcher struggled through the third and fourth innings of a contest against the Dodgers.

Andy Pettitte gave up three runs in the third inning and allowed left fielder Reed Johnson to score before a solo home run from Ronnie Belliard in the fourth inning Sunday. He followed the example left by A.J. Burnett  -- who was pulled from Saturday’s 9-4 loss.

Pettitte worked out of the third-inning jam but allowed Belliard, not typically a power hitter, his second home run of the season in the next inning.

The bigger problem for Pettitte, though, was his fielding. He tried to make two plays in the infield and came away with two errors, one of which was a badly thrown ball to third base that led directly to a Dodgers run.

At 9-2 with a 2.47 earned-run average and 2,500 innings pitched before Sunday's game, the veteran has seen better starts.

Pettitte gave up five runs and six hits in five innings.

The struggles of Burnett and Pettitte played a large role in the Dodgers' dominance of the second and third games of the series before the Yankees put on an unlikely late-inning comeback in the last contest.

Burnett had a three-run cushion in the first inning of the second game, his team up, 3-0, and allowed the game to get away from him.

Pettitte instead dug an early hole, and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's two-run home run was not enough to get him off the hook.

It took late heroics from Chad Huffman and Robinson Cano to finally bring the Yankees back for an 8-6 win in the series' final game.

-- DeAntae Prince

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

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

Dodgers pregame notes: Manny Ramirez returns to Boston

There were around 30 reporters in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park on Friday, waiting to be ignored by Manny Ramirez, who was making his long-awaited return to the stadium he once called home.

"Who are they waiting for?" Ronnie Belliard said aloud in Spanish.

Matt Kemp was the first to approach Ramirez when he showed up, using his bat as a make-believe microphone to mock-interview Ramirez.

"Manny smells good today, guys," Kemp said, as he retreated to his own locker.

But Ramirez barely said anything to reporters, continuing his four-month media blackout.

"We're going to have a meeting at 4:30," he said as he retreated to the opposite end of the clubhouse. "Media, out."

The reception Ramirez received from the early arriving fans was more warm than it was cold, as several fans held up signs and No. 24 Red Sox jerseys with his name across the back.

Some fans started cheering his name when he golfed a couple of balls over the Green Monster in the second round of batting practice.

-- General Manager Ned Colletti said that he is focused on acquiring a starting pitcher as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears. "Conversations are picking up a little bit," Colletti said. He added that he hasn't been told what the Dodgers can or can't afford to do from a financial standpoint.

-- Manager Joe Torre said that Rafael Furcal will be out though Sunday, at very least. Furcal is in his native Dominican Republic on bereavement leave.

-- Torre said he plans to use Ramirez as a designated hitter in all three games in Boston, in part because he doesn't want to have to remove him late in games for defensive purposes.

-- Encouraged by the positive feedback he received from friends, Reed Johnson kept his Fu Manchu mustache even though the Dodgers' winning streak ended on Thursday.

-- Dylan Hernandez in Boston

Dodgers discover just enough of this thing called offense in 5-4 victory over Braves

Runs! Runs from the heavens! Runs everywhere! Runs like stars in the night!

OK, so I get a little excited.

Sit through 33 innings only to see the Dodgers score a mere five runs, and then they actually push across a few with something approaching regularity, and a guy just gets all giddy.

In truth, it was hardly an offensive outpouring. If only a reasonable display, comparatively, it was a quick downpour.

The Dodgers matched their total from the previous 33 innings in the first seven innings of Friday’s game against the Braves, proving just enough for a 5-4 victory.

That snapped Atlanta’s nine-game winning streak and in the process put a little hop in the Dodgers’ dragging offensive step.

Five different Dodgers drove in a run Friday. The Dodgers scored two in the first on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier and a Ronnie Belliard double. They scored two more in the second on a double by Rafael Furcal and a sacrifice fly by Matt Kemp.

And then after the Braves had rallied to tie the score with a pair of runs in the seventh after starter Clayton Kershaw exited, the Dodgers added one more in the bottom of the inning after Ethier doubled and scored on James Loney’s single.

A regular embarrassment of riches.

The Dodgers finished with 10 hits, half going for extra bases.

All this made something of a hard-loser, again, out of Braves right-hander  Kenshin Kawakami, who took the loss to fall to 0-8.

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers center fielder congratulates pitcher Clayton Kershaw after he scored a run in the second inning Friday night against Atlanta. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Manny Ramirez 2.0 is a less animated presence with Dodgers

Manny Ramirez … the quiet teammate?

Not exactly, but Manny’s unexplained, self-imposed cone of silence with the media appears to have spilled over in the way he conducts himself in the clubhouse.

He’s hardly reserved, but he’s also far from the almost larger-than-life figure who first burst upon the Dodgers’ clubhouse in 2008.

That Manny quickly became the team’s dominant figure, not only with his play on the field, but also with his personality in the clubhouse.

He laughed and played and joked with teammates and media alike. He would have seemed almost unnaturally happy, if everything hadn’t been going so right for him.

A clubhouse with a history of division between younger and older teammates became unified, following Manny the fun-loving Piped Piper.

Now it’s more Mannylite. Manny who more quietly goes about his business. His locker has been moved from its fairly central position when he first joined the team to down at an end. Sometimes it seems almost the Dominican Corner, Manny talking before games with Ronnie Belliard and Rafael Furcal.

"He’s the same guy, as far as lighthearted and stuff," said Manager Joe Torre. "Maybe not as animated as he was a couple of years ago.

"But I don’t think it’s affected anything in the clubhouse. He has the same relationship with the players, from what I’m getting."

Probably, but it all seems toned down. A clubhouse that once was clearly his now seems to have drifted more to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. He remains a definite presence, just not of the same magnitude.

Part of it could be that Manny is in the final year of his contract and is trying to be serious about his production. At age 38, it’s unlikely his next contract will be for more than one year.

But Nick Johnson, lacking Manny’s power and drawing power, signed a one-year deal for $5.75 million last off-season with the Yankees. There is still some serious money to be had.

Torre said he’s had plenty of players in the last year of a contract and seems comfortable with where Manny is at.

"I’ve had that numerous times," Torre said. "The only thing is if I sense they may be concentrating on something else. It’s all about what we can accomplish together, while we’re together.

"Being in the playoffs two straight years here, especially with someone that’s been around the block a time or two, you don’t get that opportunity that often that you’re going to the postseason that often."

Torre believes Manny’s oversized personality started to retreat after he served his 50-game suspension last year and then struggled upon his return.

Of course, the Manny the Dodgers acquired in 2008 also hit 17 home runs in just 53 games. This Manny has hit four in 34 games.

Like in the clubhouse, the same guy, just dialed back.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Bench can't help Dodgers turn it around in 2-0 loss to Pirates

Joe Torre loves his bench players. That’s what he says. Not sure what else he really could say, but he does play them a lot.

They’re just not playing much for him. Certainly he didn’t get much from them Thursday night in the Dodgers’ weak 2-0 loss to the Pirates, their fifth consecutive defeat.

Injuries to starters Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal have sent out calls to the role players. They’ll answer any time now.

Garret Anderson got the start in left field for Manny and went 0 for 4. Not that that should come as some surprise. Anderson is in an 0-for-15 stretch. His batting average has plummeted to .125.

Doug Mientkiewicz, come back; all is forgiven.

Jamey Carroll started for Furcal at shortstop and went 0 for 3 and left four runners in scoring position. He is batting .212 and has yet to drive in a run in this season in 33 at-bats.

The other two main bench players can offer some better numbers, but it’s not like Reed Johnson and Ronnie Belliard have been tearing it up.

Johnson grounded out as a pinch-hitter Thursday, but he has been solid. He is hitting a respectable .282, with two doubles and two triples in 39 at-bats.

Belliard started the season on fire and was hitting .423 on April 23. Since then, he’s gone 0 for 12.

The bench, however, can only partially explain the Dodgers' incredibly shrinking offense.

The Dodgers have lost seven of their last eight games.

Along the way they presented first major league wins to Cincinnati’s Mike Leake and Washington’s Luis Atilano, turned things around for New York’s struggling John Paine (0-1, 8.64 earned-run average) and, Thursday, for Pittsburgh’s Brian Burres (13-20, 5.99 ERA in 42 previous career starts).

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers bullpen: Was it sink-or-swim time for struggling Ramon Ortiz?

Am I the only one who felt like Ramon Ortiz was out there pitching for his little Dodger life Friday night?

Pitching into his third inning for the first time all season, having major control issues, and Joe Torre left him in there to -- what? -- just figure it out?

Ortiz went into the eighth inning with the Dodgers already down 5-1, and then promptly went to a full count on each of the first three batters, walking each.

Yet with the bases loaded and nobody out, Torre remained on the dugout steps. Like he almost defiantly wanted to see Ortiz get out of the jam.

The bullpen already has been overworked, but Torre had George Sherrill -- another struggling reliever --  warmed up in the bullpen. And still, he left Ortiz to his own devices.

Then Ortiz actually got out of the jam with help from one of the stranger double plays you’ll ever see.

First he got Albert Gonzalez to pop up, and then, with Torre keeping the infield in with speedy Willie Harris up, came the oddity.

Harris bounced to James Loney at first, who fired home for the force, though catcher A.J. Ellis took a swipe at Cristian Guzman with the glove, like he didn’t understand the situation.

Which was nothing compared with Harris, who apparently thought that was the third out. So he turned and started walking into the Washington dugout.

Ellis threw back to Ronnie Belliard covering first, who tagged a hastily retreating Harris several feet off the bag. Umpire Jerry Crawford called him out, though in reality he had run out of the baseline and should have been automatically out.

Probably not the way Torre had envisioned Ortiz escaping, but he had.

Ortiz threw 48 pitches in his 2 2/3 innings. He actually lowered his ERA to 6.94. After a terrific spring, the season’s start has been a struggle for Ortiz. If Torre was looking for reason to still believe in him, he still is.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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