Dodgers set for test with tough May slate

Dodgers set for test with tough May slate

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Dodgers should learn in May whether they play in an evenly matched division or a weak one. The National League West didn't have a team finish April with a winning record. The Dodgers went 12-13, playing all but two series against division foes.

After Clayton Kershaw opened the new month on Sunday by overwhelming the Padres, the Dodgers play 29 of the next 32 games against teams out of their division, starting Tuesday night with a pair of Interleague games against Tampa Bay. It will be the first time president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman faces his old club.

The Dodgers then leave the country, playing two games in Toronto. Apparently, the scheduling computer spit out opponents this month in alphabetical order instead of proximity.

That computer also gave the Dodgers off-days on Monday and Thursday, then only one more over the ensuing five weeks. The Dodgers will use this week's down time to juggle the rotation, giving Kenta Maeda two extra days of rest so he will start Friday against the right-handed-heavy lineup of the Blue Jays.

Even in victory on Sunday, the club's offensive malaise dragged on. The Dodgers had only three hits, the biggest one by Kershaw, who cashed in A.J. Ellis' double for the lone run of the game. Kershaw drove in two of the 12 runs the club scored on the seven-game homestand. The dozen runs equaled the number of runs the Dodgers scored in their last game on the previous trip.

Kershaw's RBI single

"Maybe a day off, get on the East Coast, get on the road, we might come alive," manager Dave Roberts said Sunday.

The Dodgers led the league in home runs last year, but through Sunday, they were next to last. Outfielders Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke are injured, and third baseman Justin Turner's power has vanished after microfracture knee surgery.

"I don't see anything wrong physically," Roberts said of Turner. "I do see that there are some balls where the at-bat should be ended, balls in the hitting zone that he's missing. Also, there are some close pitches that he's taking. He's just not seeing the ball as well as he'd like to."

Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick have been slumping badly for weeks, and Adrian Gonzalez joined them on the homestand. Joc Pederson, tied with Gonzalez for the team lead with three homers, had four last April and 16 more by the All-Star break.

More troublesome, the team is 14th in runners left on base.

"We just have to continue to stay the course," Roberts said. "The hitting coaches are working tirelessly; they take it home with them at night, as do the players. It's one of those things where you can't just put guys in different places in the order and say that's a magic solution. They still have to hit.

"It doesn't matter where you hit in the order, you still have to hit. Right now, I think there's consistency with where they're at and they're comfortable showing when they're supposed to play. Now it's just a matter of going out there and getting hits. The work's there, the confidence is there, I know on my part."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.