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Dodgers strike out in Arizona

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- A change in routine didn’t change the results for Andruw Jones, the Dodgers’ latest defeat ending with the familiar sight of him striking out and the enlarged image of his smiling mug shot on the scoreboard above the center-field wall at Chase Field.

In the wake of the Dodgers’ 4-3, sweep-sealing defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, Manager Joe Torre said again that he had no doubt that the hits would come for his slumping lineup. Jones sounded less certain, at least when it came to himself.

“It might stay like this for the rest of the season or it might go a different way,” said Jones, who returned to Los Angeles batting .129 and his team under .500 at 4-5. “You just have to keep working and keep battling.”

The slow start isn’t a first for Jones.

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An unproductive April turned into a largely unproductive season in 2007, when he hit .226 with 26 home runs for the Atlanta Braves and perhaps cost himself the $100-million deal predicted by his agent, Scott Boras.

But only two seasons earlier, Jones recovered from a poor first month to hit a major league-best 51 home runs. He felt that one of the reasons he was able to get back on track was a day off granted to him by Braves Manager Bobby Cox, which is why he said he had no problem with Torre’s decision to have him watch most of the first six innings from the safety of the dugout.

“Sometimes you just want to release your mind from putting too much pressure on yourself,” he said.

Matt Kemp started in Jones’ place in center, with Juan Pierre flanking him in left and Andre Ethier in right.

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Jones entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth and led off the next inning with an infield hit to shortstop.

“When you struggle, you take whatever -- a blooper, a broken bat, whatever, hit by pitch, a walk, anything,” Jones said.

Torre characterized the Dodgers’ inability to score -- they’ve been held to three or fewer runs in six of their nine games -- as a byproduct of their youth.

“There’s something about youngsters, they lack a little patience, they get a little anxious and they get to where they overdo sometimes,” Torre said.

But Jones, 31, lumped himself in that group.

“Everyone who’s struggling is trying to put too much pressure on themselves to go out there and get the job done, get the big hit, get the big home run or make the key play,” he said.

That mentality manifested itself in a fourth-inning throwing error by James Loney, who instead of securing the sure out at first, tried to start a double play with a throw to second that sailed into left field. The Diamondbacks scored two runs in that inning to go ahead, 2-1.

“That’s how I play, aggressive,” Loney said. “That was probably too aggressive right there.”

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Loney hit a home run in the sixth to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, but Arizona reclaimed the advantage in the bottom of the inning on a two-run single by Eric Byrnes.

Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up four runs (two earned) and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, was saddled with his first big-league loss and the Diamondbacks won their sixth in a row.

Chances were there for the Dodgers to win, but they were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, making them five for 39 under those circumstances over their last five games.

But Jones reminded reporters that it was early -- for the team and for himself.

“I’m not really concerned yet,” he said. “When July comes and if I’m still struggling, that’s when I’ll be really worried.”

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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