Reporting from New York
Whoa, whoa, whoa – who was that guy screaming and pointing at the umpire?
These are strange times for the Dodgers, producing enough frustration to transport them into an alternate universe in which James Loney could have been mistaken for a young Larry Bowa.
The Dodgers lost twice on a dreadful Tuesday at Citi Field, falling to Johan Santana and the New York Mets, 4-0, in the first game of a doubleheader and 10-5 in the second. The Dodgers’ record dropped to 8-12, including 2-6 on their current nine-game trip.
What made the mild-mannered Loney scream bloody murder and draw his first career ejection was a questionable called third strike by home plate umpire Angel Campos in a pivotal moment of the second game – fourth inning, bases loaded, two outs, full count, score tied, 3-3. In that inning, the Dodgers had ended a 21-inning scoreless streak.
Television replays showed that the location of the pitch to be nearly identical with the pitch Campos called for ball three and Loney didn’t hide his dismay.
“I was kind of like, ‘There’s no way that could possibly be a strike,’” Loney later recalled in a light-hearted tone devoid of anger.
Loney said he couldn’t remember if he cursed at Campos.
Playing the peacemaker was Bowa, the third base coach known as much for his passionate protests as his immense knowledge of the game’s details. Bowa and first base coach Mariano Duncan restrained Loney and convinced him to walk away. (Bowa took over the argument at this point, restoring cosmic order.)
But Loney tossed a batting glove toward home plate, which resulted in Campos tossing Loney.
“One of my batting gloves was at home plate, so I was throwing my other batting glove so that the bat boy could come pick them up,” Loney said.
Manager Joe Torre backed Loney, saying Campos acted hastily.
“There’s a lot of pressure on players and sometimes umpires forget the pressure involved in playing the game and maybe react too soon,” Torre said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened – on the umpire’s part, not James’.”
The Dodgers lost the game in the middle innings, when they suffered another meltdown by their middle relievers. Ramon Troncoso, Jon Link and George Sherrill combined to give up three runs in the fifth inning and four more in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Each of the three relievers pitched in the first game of the day.
Torre acknowledged that he would have rather avoided using Troncoso twice. Troncoso had made 14 appearances, the most ever by a Dodgers pitcher through the first 20 games of the season.
That Troncoso had to be used in the first game was particularly regrettable, given the way starter Hiroki Kuroda was pitching.
Kuroda held the Mets to two runs in six innings – one run on a wild pitch and another on home run by Jason Bay – and had thrown only 87 pitches. But with the Dodgers trailing 2-0 and their scoreless streak at 15 innings, Torre sent Garret Anderson to hit for Kuroda in the seventh inning.
Andre Ethier admitted that the frustration level in the clubhouse was increasing, but said the team had to maintain its composure.
“We don’t need to start pointing fingers,” he said.
But fingers were being pointed from upstairs.
General Manager Ned Colletti went out of his way to voice his displeasure with his team when speaking to Peter Tilden of KABC, saying, “Some guys, I guess, think that they’re better than they are. They think the opposition’s just going to roll over and get beat by them. That obviously doesn’t happen.”
Colletti came down particularly hard on Matt Kemp.
“The baserunning’s below average,” he said. “The defense is below average. Why is it? Because he got a new deal? I can’t tell you.”
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