Minus Kershaw, punchless Dodgers fall 5 1/2 back

Minus Kershaw, punchless Dodgers fall 5 1/2 back

Minus Kershaw, punchless Dodgers fall 5 1/2 back
SAN FRANCISCO -- With best pitcher Clayton Kershaw joining best hitter Matt Kemp on the injured list, what's left of the beleaguered Dodgers lost Sunday's crucial series rubber game to the Giants, 4-0.

Don Mattingly said he still believes his club can make the playoffs, even though it dropped 5 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West and 1 1/2 games away from the second Wild Card berth with 21 games to play.

"Yeah, I think we're capable. I know we can do it," the manager said after his offense went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday and a ghastly 1-for-23 in the series.

"We have the type of offense that is capable of putting a big inning on you, but we haven't done enough to win games. We haven't scored enough, it's no secret."

The mystery is why, especially after the acquisitions of proven hitters Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Shane Victorino. Especially with the team putting itself in position during the first half to convince ownership to aggressively improve the roster for a stretch run.

And then, this.

"That's the most frustrating part, the part that makes you bang your head against the wall," said Andre Ethier. "I don't know if we're pressing or not caring enough. I don't know what it is. Maybe somebody needs to come in and give us a good shaking.

"I was as excited as anyone with the moves. Maybe there's too much sitting around and waiting instead of making it happen. How do you make it happen? I think we had this conversation a couple weeks ago.

"Each one of us has to dig deep and figure out a way. We can't use excuses, just get it done. [Giants starter Barry Zito] pitched a good game, but at the same time we've got to find a way to beat them. We can't use excuses. You can't point fingers at anyone else. Just step up and say I've got to get better."

Zito, beating the Dodgers for only the second time in his last 10 starts against them, is another in a string of soft-tossing lefties that quashed the Dodgers offense. He out-pitched Joe Blanton, who was tabbed the emergency starter after Kershaw was scratched two hours before game time with a bad hip.

Blanton allowed a two-run double to former Phillies teammate Hunter Pence in a marathon 36-pitch first inning, a run in the fifth after a triple by Angel Pagan and a home run to center by Buster Posey leading off the sixth. He's 1-4 with a 6.25 ERA in seven starts since coming to the Dodgers from Philadelphia, and 9-13 overall this season.

"We still had our work cut out because Blanton is a good pitcher," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "He's been around and he knows what he's doing. Sure, we don't have to face Kershaw and you don't mind that. But at the same time, they have a lot of depth over there and they scratched him and put another good pitcher out there. We went into the game knowing we still had work to do."

Kershaw could have thrown a shutout and it still would have come down to an offense that can't score. Although the Dodgers are seven games above .500 against left-handed starters on the season, it seems to Mattingly that his offense has been incapable lately of beating them. Among the lefties the Dodgers have faced recently are Jeff Francis, Eric Stults, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley and Mark Buehrle.

"We've seen the same lefties get us out all the time," he said. "They all have the same style and they're guys we have trouble with. We've got to figure out how to make adjustments against them. They've been able to do it to us every time without having any real answer for it."

The Dodgers had runners in scoring position in five different innings, starting with Mark Ellis' double leading off the game. But in a sign of bad things to come, Ellis never even made it to third.

They had two on and two out in the third, but Gonzalez grounded out. A runner on second with two out in the fifth, but Ellis grounded out. In the seventh, Bobby Abreu struck out with two on pinch-hitting and Victorino flied out with the bases loaded. The game ended with Nick Punto grounding out with a runner on second.

"Obviously, we have to make adjustments with the thinking against this style of pitcher," said Mattingly. "Are you willing to take what he gives you? Use the whole field? Are you willing to look soft, hit a different way?

"Whatever it is, we're not getting it done with this style of guy and we have to make adjustments, each guy. We have a game plan, but at some point they go up there to hit. They've got to go up there and execute."

Nonetheless, Mattingly said he still believes his club is only one day away from breaking out.

"I'm not going to quit," he said. "I'm not rolling home, giving up and I'm not expecting the guys to do that. You can write it's over and say we're done. That's not what I believe.

"This game was pivotal from the standpoint of the race. It stings us when we're trying to catch these guys, but we can't be worried about that. We know we need to win every day. We wanted to win the series, grab a game, inch a little closer, take a snail approach. We went the opposite way. That's not what you want to do when you're trying to build momentum."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.