Tough task for Torre, Dodgers

Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Orange County has never been among Joe Torre's favorite summer destinations. And with reason.

During his 12 seasons as manager of the New York Yankees, Torre won 10 division titles, six league championships and four World Series, compiling a winning record against every American League team but one.

The one he plays tonight in Anaheim. The Angels.

But at least he knows why. And it wasn't bad karma, bad strategy or even bad efforts from his Yankees. Instead it was their tailor who was to blame.

"I think a lot of it is the fact that the team you play has the confidence in how it plays against the uniform," he said.

Which naturally raises a question: Now that Torre has changed uniforms, trading his Yankees pinstripes for Dodgers blue, will that also change his luck?

"We'll see," said Torre, whose Dodgers warmed up for tonight's interleague opener at Angel Stadium with a 7-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. "I hope so."

The Dodgers' luck has certainly changed over the last couple of days. With consecutive wins over the Brewers, the Dodgers not only turned a season-high five-game losing streak into a two-game winning streak, but they also avoided losing consecutive series, something that's happened to them only once this season.

"We've been struggling. And everybody's seen it," said center fielder Andruw Jones, whose solo homer in the seventh inning broke a scoreless tie and gave him RBIs in consecutive games for the first time this season. "But we kept battling, we kept fighting. Hopefully this will get us on a good streak."

And perhaps just as important is the fact the Dodgers are now a quarter of the way into their schedule and Torre appears to be getting a firmer grasp on the team -- and league -- he joined during the off-season.

"I get a feel for what guys can do. And what situations you want to put them in," Torre said. "As far as the ability of the players, I think I've got a pretty good idea. What's new for me is seeing a lot of these players, for the first time, on the other team."

That won't be a problem this weekend because if there's any team Torre has seen too much of in the last 12 years, it's the Angels.

"I'm never comfortable watching that team," he said. "They have too many weapons, and they can come at you too many ways."

Chief among those weapons, Torre said, is Manager Mike Scioscia.

"They have a personality on how they play the game," Torre said. "And he's encouraged these guys not to worry about making mistakes. Go out there and be aggressive. Playing against his ballclubs you know the score's not going to matter. They're going to come at you all the time."

And they're going to come at the Dodgers with some great pitching as well, starting left-hander Joe Saunders (6-1, 2.48 earned-run average), unbeaten right-hander Ervin Santana (6-0, 2.63) and right-hander Jered Weaver (2-5, 4.86), who held the Chicago White Sox to a hit in seven innings his last time out.

But these won't be the Yankees they'll be facing. "I think that we matched up in some areas well against some of the teams that Joe had, but I don't think it's manager against manager," Scioscia said. "I think it's team against team."

So much to Torre's chagrin, the uniform he's wearing might not matter. In his first trip to Angel Stadium as a Dodger, for a March exhibition, the best he could come away with was a 2-2 tie.

But even that was better than his predecessors have done, since the Dodgers haven't won a season series with the Angels this century and have won only twice in Anaheim in the last five years.

Plus they're 4-23 in American League ballparks since 2005.

Whether that will carry over is anyone's guess. But Torre is betting what happened in Milwaukee will.

"We have a little more confidence than we had a couple of days ago," Torre said as he prepared to leave the city where he began his big league playing career. "When you look back, it's strange. Because in losing five in a row we lost one series. If you keep doing that, you're obviously going to be in pretty good shape."


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