Dodgers still can't hit the spot

Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- The DVD collection in the visitors' clubhouse at Miller Park is extensive if not particularly broad, featuring copies of "Happy Gilmore," "Dodgeball" and two versions of "Jackass," among other sophomoric comedies.

But there's one other video there the Dodgers might want to take a look at -- "Hitters on Hitting: Finding the Sweet Spot." Because during the last week, the sweet spot has definitely proved elusive for the punchless Dodgers, who Tuesday dropped their fifth game in a row, falling to the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-3.

In their last six games, the Dodgers are batting only .234 and averaging 2.5 runs. Before that, they were hitting .283 and scoring more than twice as often.

The difference? Rafael Furcal, who apparently took the Dodgers offense with him when he went to the sidelines last week because of a lower-back strain.

"There's a difference when he's not in the lineup," said catcher Russell Martin, who had three of the Dodgers' nine hits Tuesday, pushing his average over .300. "But I don't really think we're pressing because he's not in the lineup. We're just not getting it done as a team."

And this isn't the first time this has happened. When Furcal came out of the lineup in September because of back problems, the Dodgers lost nine of their last 12 games, dropping out of contention in the National League West.

"He's our sparkplug, there's no doubt about it," Martin said of Furcal, who, even after sitting out a week, still ranks among the National League leaders in eight offensive categories, including average (.366), on-base percentage (.448) and slugging percentage (.597). "We're definitely missing his bat right now. But we can still put up runs without him in the lineup."

Well, they'd better start doing that soon because Furcal isn't eligible to come off the disabled list until May 21.

"If you're going to live there and say 'Oh my goodness, we can't win without him,' then it's basically packing up the tent. And you can't do that," Manager Joe Torre said. "You've got to find a way to get it done. We have to make up for his loss."

But who? Jeff Kent, who didn't get a hit on the last homestand, is one for his last 22 at-bats after a first-inning run-scoring single Tuesday. Andruw Jones, who leads the team with 38 strikeouts, has been benched the last two games with a .170 average. Andre Ethier hasn't driven in a run in nine days and the guy who replaced Furcal, rookie Chin-Lung Hu, is batting .154 with only one run scored in May.

And then there's the pitching. The Dodgers have held opponents to fewer than 10 hits only once in the last week -- Houston got nine Friday -- and two of those starts were by ace Brad Penny (5-4), who has given up 15 runs in his last 10 2/3 innings.

All five runs he gave up Tuesday came with two outs, two on two-strike pitches. But the biggest mistake Penny made was walking pitcher Carlos Villanueva, a .143 hitter, on four pitches to open the fifth inning. That started a three-run rally in which the Brewers turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

The lead held up into the ninth inning when former Dodger Eric Gagne, briefly removed from the closer's role for the Brewers last weekend, gave up a walk and a hit but not a run to earn his 10th save.


Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World