Rafael Furcal drove in the deciding run in the Dodgers’ most important victory of the season to date, but he appeared sad.
He looked down. He measured his words as he spoke. He didn’t smile.
“I needed this,” he said.
The anguish that has built inside Furcal over the last five months couldn’t be relieved Thursday by his up-the-middle single that broke a sixth-inning stalemate and let recently acquired Vicente Padilla earn the victory in the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies.
The Dodgers won two of three at Coors Field to increase their lead over the Rockies in the National League West to four games, but Furcal spent less time talking about his role in helping them re-establish command in the division, and more about the games he thinks he has cost them.
“I’ve felt bad about myself,” he said, adding that his mind’s eye often replays his failures to reach base or get a hit whenever his team loses by a run or two.
The back operation that forced Furcal to miss 4 1/2 months last season took place almost 14 months ago.
So why is Rafael Furcal still not playing like Rafael Furcal?
“I feel bad that I can’t do what I used to do,” Furcal said. “Nothing’s bothering me. I feel fine physically. I’m working as hard as I can. I’m doing everything I can do. But I’m not getting the results I want.”
He is hitting .202 this month and has struck out 16 times in his last 18 games.
The walk he drew in the first inning Thursday was his first in 11 games. It resulted in a run for the Dodgers, as Matt Kemp’s home run put them up, 2-0.
“The entire season, I haven’t felt like myself,” he said. “Sure, I’ll strike out like any other player. But I’m not the kind of player who swings at as many pitches as I have.”
Furcal had 56 extra-base hits in his first season with the Dodgers in 2006. He has 29 this season.
“I’m not saying I’m going to hit 30, 40 home runs, but I can at least hit the ball hard into the gaps, hit line drives,” he said.
Befuddled by what has happened, Furcal said he watches video of himself every day.
He watches video in the clubhouse, sometimes by himself and sometimes with Manny Ramirez at his side.
He watches video at home.
He watches video in hotel rooms.
“What can I do?” he said. “It’s one thing to see something on a video. It’s another thing to be able to fix that in a game.”
For one at-bat in the sixth inning Thursday, he found an answer.
The score was tied, 2-2. Orlando Hudson was on second.
Furcal’s run-scoring hit off Jorge De La Rosa, who was 12-2 in his previous 15 starts, was the only one by the Dodgers in 11 at-bats with men in scoring position.
Furcal’s teammates said he deserved a moment like that.
“He plays so hard and he wants to win so badly,” catcher Brad Ausmus said.
But a late-inning mishap on defense gave Furcal something else to think about.
With one out and a man on first in the ninth, closer Jonathan Broxton induced pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs to hit a grounder to Furcal, who crossed in front of second base to field it. Instead of throwing to first base for the sure out, or flipping the ball back to Hudson for a possible force out, Furcal tried to tag Yorvit Torrealba, who was on his way to second.
Broxton had to strike out Eric Young Jr. and Seth Smith to close the game.
“What can you do?” Furcal asked.