By the end of the Dodgers’ third and most embarrassing defeat in the last four days to one of baseball’s worst teams, Larry Bowa was reduced to picking dirt out of his nails in the third base coach’s box.
The game was a long one for Bowa, who had almost nothing to do until he sent Orlando Hudson home on a sacrifice fly by Chin-lung Hu in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 11-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday that kept the team’s magic number to clinch the National League West championship at one.
Bowa offered a blunt appraisal of the Dodgers’ performance at PNC Park, where they made three mistakes on the basepaths in the first two innings, were held to four hits over 8 2/3 innings by Zach Duke and served up two home runs to Andy LaRoche.
“Terrible,” Bowa said. “All facets. It’s frustrating because you’re trying to clinch this stuff and get home-field advantage. You play like that, it’s not acceptable.”
Manager Joe Torre provided a more lighthearted description, saying his team “gave the Bad News Bears a run for their money.”
Hiroki Kuroda lasted only four innings, which included third baseman Mark Loretta’s throwing error at the start of what turned out to be a five-run second inning for the Pirates.
That the Dodgers fielded a lineup that didn’t include Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard and Russell Martin wasn’t used as an excuse by Bowa, who said the team hasn’t played well on this trip.
The Dodgers have made seven errors in the first seven games of their three-city, nine-game trek, which started with their winning two of three games from league-worst Washington and will end with two games in San Diego beginning tonight.
“I just think we’ve made too many mistakes that we haven’t made the whole year,” Bowa said. “To me, it’s not ability. We have great ability. We’ve done it for 140-something games.”
Bowa said he thinks some of the young players don’t understand that there isn’t an emotional switch that a team can suddenly flip to improve its performance whenever it wants.
Of the Dodgers’ tendency of playing to the level of the competition, Bowa said, “You can’t play baseball that way. You have to respect every team you play. If you don’t respect every team, you have a problem playing the game.”
Asked how the Dodgers would fare if they faced St. Louis or Philadelphia and played the way they did against Washington and Pittsburgh, Bowa said, “Like this?” and erupted in laughter.
“You can’t play any team like this,” he said. “You can’t play baseball like this.”
Bowa said it is vital for the Dodgers to finish the regular season with the best record in the league, which would earn them home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series.
“I’ve been in 11 of these, and home-field advantage is important,” he said. “I just think it’s important because when you go through the playoffs, the crowd for the home team goes to another level. A crowd in Philadelphia can be very intimidating. St. Louis, they pack them. And we have a good crowd and we play well at home, so I don’t think anyone wants to come to our place. A lot of people blow that off like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal.”
Asked whether he thought the Dodgers’ problems were mental, Bowa looked around the clubhouse and said, “You have to ask them. You have to ask every player.”
The players didn’t seem to share Bowa’s sense of urgency.
“We have five more games, man,” said Matt Kemp, who was doubled off second base in the second inning when James Loney popped out to shortstop Luis Cruz in shallow left field.
“We wish it didn’t happen, but it happened,” Brad Ausmus said. “We’ll move on.”
Ausmus said he didn’t think that the Dodgers were affected by what happened the previous day -- they blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning, suffered a walk-off loss and sat for an hour and a half in the clubhouse to watch second-place Colorado delay the Dodgers’ coronation by beating St. Louis -- and denied that they were too relaxed.
“It’s all business when the game starts,” he said. “You see the clubhouse, but the clubhouse isn’t the dugout in the game.”
Hudson, who reached base on an error in the first inning but was thrown out on that play trying to go to second, said the outcome of the series had less to do with what the Dodgers didn’t do and more to do with what the Pirates did.
“Baseball, baby, baseball,” Hudson said. “It happens. They’re not just going to roll over and let us celebrate on their field. They flat-out whupped our [rears] today. It wasn’t that we didn’t do this or didn’t do that.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
1 Dodgers wins and Colorado losses that will clinch the NL West title. H: Home games left.
R: Road games left.
*--* NL WEST W L Pct. GB H R Dodgers 93 64 592 -- 3 2 Colorado 88 68 564 4.5 3 3 *--*
at San Diego (2, today-Wednesday)
vs. Colorado (3, Friday-Sunday)