Dodgers running out of second chances

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Jeff Kent said he has played with pain in his left knee for the last month.

Friday, he said he couldn’t continue -- not even with his team in the midst of a crisis that could push them out of contention.

Seven innings into a 9-3 loss to the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field that extended the Dodgers’ season-long losing streak to eight games, the 40-year-old second baseman who has endured a wide range of physical problems this season had to be replaced by pinch-hitter Blake DeWitt.

The Dodgers are 4 1/2 games out of first place, they’re eight for 69 with runners in scoring position during their eight-game skid, but Kent said he probably wouldn’t play today. Kent, who will undergo an MRI exam, said he probably wouldn’t play Sunday, either.


“I’ve been fighting this for about a month now, maybe a little bit longer,” said Kent, adding the discomfort became unbearable while he was playing defense.

Of the exam, he said, “I’ve been trying to avoid it.”

And Kent admitted he was worried, especially because the Dodgers are at a stage in their season when “you need all of your warriors.”

Nothing the Dodgers did Friday changed their fortune.

Again, they shuffled their lineup. Again, Manager Joe Torre talked to his team in a pregame meeting.

A day earlier, Torre said he was done delivering speeches.

“I never tell the truth,” Torre said, smirking. Turning serious, he continued, “I’d rather give too much than not enough.”

With the Dodgers mired in a hitting slump reminiscent of the pre-Manny Ramirez days, Torre stuck Russell Martin in the leadoff spot, making him the first catcher to bat first for the club since Paul Lo Duca on Aug. 11, 2001.

Matt Kemp, who was hitless in his last 14 at-bats entering Friday, was dropped from first to fifth in the order.


“It’s just something we did because we’ve been struggling and you want to shake things up a little bit,” said Torre, who pointed to Martin’s team-leading 67 walks and .381 on-base percentage as reasons behind the move.

The new look produced similar results.

Run-scoring singles by Kemp and James Loney in the fifth inning gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, but it didn’t last long.

Nomar Garciaparra might have started a double play in the bottom of the inning, but the shortstop’s throw to Kent sailed wide and into right field, allowing Chad Tracy to score the tying run and for the Diamondbacks to put men on second and third with no out. A single by Jeff Salazar knocked in Chris Snyder, a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew scored Augie Ojeda and the Diamondbacks were up, 4-2.

The Diamondbacks blew the game open in the seventh inning, when Chan Ho Park was charged with four runs and let the deficit balloon to 8-3. Garciaparra made another error that inning.

Wasted was a four-for-four evening by Manny Ramirez, who had two doubles and two runs.

Hiroki Kuroda (7-10) was pinned with the loss, as he gave up four runs (two earned) in five innings.

Finally, the Diamondbacks were able to capitalize on the Dodgers’ struggles, their failure to do so clearly puzzling Diamondbacks Manager Bob Melvin.


Entering Friday’s game, the Diamondbacks had lost five of their last six games. In their last series, they were swept by last-place San Diego.

“At some point in time, you have to realize there are opportunities and you have to take advantage of them,” Melvin said. “We’re fortunate the Dodgers lost some games and that we are where we are.”