Taking it one day at a time

The Dodgers had the best record in the National League through Wednesday, but Manager Joe Torre said he no longer felt they were the best team in the league.

"Not right now, no," Torre said.

Entering their series with the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers were 15-18 since the All-Star break and 7-11 in August.

"This game is unlike a lot of games," Torre said. "You play football, you play once a week. You have a bad game, you have a week of practice. This game, you have to go out every day. If you lose, it chips away at your confidence. There's no question. It doesn't matter how good you are."

The Dodgers were 17-2 in their first 19 one-run games at home but have lost their last four.

"We have to start winning some of these close games again," Torre said.

Manny Ramirez's substandard second-half form has affected the rest of the lineup, Torre said. Ramirez batted .252 with four home runs and 16 runs batted in in his first 32 games after the All-Star break.

"When he doesn't hit, everyone tries to turn up the volume a little bit," Torre said.

In Torre's eyes, Ramirez is also putting extra pressure on himself.

"I think he's in line with everyone else," Torre said. "He's swinging hard. He knows why he's in the lineup. He knows we count on him. He tries to be that guy. Sometimes he gets a little too big."

Kershaw: It's not fatigue

Clayton Kershaw said his recent dip in form has nothing to do with fatigue. The 21-year-old left-hander has failed to complete five innings in three of his last four starts.

"I don't feel tired," Kershaw said. "I feel fine."

Kershaw has pitched 139 2/3 innings and is on pace to log 185 for the season.

He pitched 168 1/3 last season, including 61 1/3 in the minors.

Torre acknowledged that the Dodgers had originally planned to let Kershaw skip an occasional turn in the rotation or take extra days between starts.

"That plan was in place before he started reeling off those good outings," Torre said of the 11-start stretch from July 16 to Aug. 8 in which Kershaw was 5-1 with a 1.06 earned-run average.

Martin's wild throws

Russell Martin has made five throwing errors in the last 25 games, among them an errant throw to second base in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night that let Albert Pujols move to third base. Pujols later scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly.

"He just rushes it," said Torre, a former catcher. "Last night, he didn't have much hope of getting Albert in that situation. He got rid of it so quickly."

Short hops

Hiroki Kuroda played catch for the first time since being struck in the head by a line drive Saturday, but said he still suffers from intermittent headaches. Kuroda will undergo another neurological examination today. . . . Vicente Padilla will wear No. 44, the number he started wearing when he traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2000. Padilla threw a 35-pitch bullpen session and remains on track to start for triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. . . . Left-hander Will Ohman gave up a run and two hits in an inning for Class-A Inland Empire.



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