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Dodgers lose more ground with 5-2 defeat to Cincinnati

Joe Torre can read the standings just like everybody else. And just like everybody else, he sees his Dodgers slowly sagging closer to last place than first place in the National League West.

That’s not the kind of momentum a manager wants to see with six weeks left in the season.

“We can’t talk about moving up in the standings until we can put a streak together,” he said after the Dodgers’ 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, the team’s eighth setback in 12 games. “We’re put ourselves in that position.”

And while that makes him a realist it doesn’t make him or his Dodgers quitters. Vin Scully may have announced his plans for 2011 on Sunday, but the Dodgers are still trying to salvage something this season despite the long odds.

“You’ve got to keep playing,” Torre said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen so you’ve got to keep playing. Things can turn quickly.

“Whatever light there is, you’ve got to shoot for it. And that’s what we have to do.”

That light is growing dim, though. Consider the Dodgers’ predicament:

After Sunday’s loss, which gave the Reds their first series win at Dodger Stadium since 2004, the Dodgers trail San Diego by 12 games in the division and Philadelphia by eight games in the wild-card standings. To reach the postseason, they have to win 27 of their last 37 games and hope the Phillies have a losing record the rest of the way.

And the Phillies haven’t had a losing month this season.

“You shouldn’t be doing any math,” third baseman Casey Blake said. “We shouldn’t worry about anybody ahead of us. It’s tough not to watch the standings, but the bottom line is we need to win some games.”

That’s not likely to happen until the Dodgers’ anemic offense gets healthy. Torre’s team has been held to two runs or fewer in nearly two-thirds of their games since the All-Star break. And Sunday, when right-hander Bronson Arroyo (14-7) and two relievers held the Dodgers to two runs, three of their seven hits came from a player, catcher A.J. Ellis, who was sent to the minors after the game.

“Just because we’re not scoring runs doesn’t mean we’re not trying to,” Torre said. “I certainly don’t see anybody throwing in the towel at this point. Unfortunately, I see too much frustration. We just need to continue to battle.”

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw (11-8), who was starting grade school the last time a Torre-managed team did not reach the playoffs, certainly battled Sunday, making a career-high 118 pitches in seven innings and striking out 11. But two walks cost him in a two-run first inning by Cincinnati.

And after the Dodgers tied the score on Matt Kemp’s second-inning home run and a run-scoring single by Ellis in the fifth, Joey Votto put the Reds ahead to stay with a leadoff home run in the sixth.

Votto hit a two-run, two-out single against Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning to give the Central Division-leading Reds two runs they didn’t need.

“That’s just kind of been a theme for the season,” shortstop Jamey Carroll said. “We keep looking for that hot streak. And we can’t manage to find it or get over that hump.”

And that, Blake said, is the frustrating part.

“What’s tough is not seeing the results,” he said. “It’s like we’re beating our head against a wall. The ingredients for wins and putting wins together just haven’t been there.

"[But] we’re going to keep playing baseball games and showing up expecting to win.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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