Latest loss hurts the Dodgers so many ways


Reporting from St. Louis -- Manny Ramirez was nowhere in sight, perhaps on his way to his third stint of the season on the disabled list.

Russell Martin had a bulky bandage around his swollen left thumb. Chad Billingsley had no explanation for why he had what was arguably his worst start of the season.

The Dodgers were wounded. The Dodgers were looking for answers.

The Dodgers had also fallen to the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time in as many days, dropping an 8-4 decision Friday at Busch Stadium.

Ramirez, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, felt tightness in his right calf during pregame warmups. The calf was the same one responsible for Ramirez’s first trip to the disabled list, which was in April.

But, Manager Joe Torre said, “He didn’t think it was anything.”

The 38-year-old Ramirez drew a walk in the first inning, ran the bases and returned to the dugout after Casey Blake popped up to leave men stranded on the corners.

“When he went out to the outfield [for the bottom half of the inning], it just got tighter on him, so he came out,” Torre said.

Ramirez, who was replaced by Xavier Paul, is listed as day to day. He will be evaluated Saturday.

Martin, who later acknowledged that the thumb on his catching hand started to bother him when the Dodgers were in Arizona at the beginning of the month, came out near the end of the game.

“I only felt it when I miscaught a ball,” the catcher said. “Tonight was the first time I felt it swinging the bat.”

Martin hadn’t told the training staff about his thumb, but his secret was exposed when Torre saw him grimace while taking a swing in the eighth inning. Torre pulled Martin from the game and replaced him with A.J. Ellis.

Martin said he didn’t think he would land on the disabled list.

“They’re going to have to knock me out before they put me on the DL,” he said.

The .241 hitter admitted that the puffy digit might be affecting him at the plate, but said he hoped he could take something positive out of this.

“It’s frustrating,” Martin said. “You see a pitch that you want to drive and you miss it, you start thinking, ‘Why am I missing a pitch I should hit?’ But it builds character, man. Maybe it’ll make me hold the bat a little looser in my hands. It might make me even better. I’m not a wimp, so I’m not too worried about it.”

Billingsley also tried to downplay concerns about his form.

On a night in which he was charged with seven earned runs and 10 hits in only four innings, Billingsley said he felt he pitched fine.

“I wasn’t really struggling,” he said. “They put the ball in play, they found holes and made things happen. I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. It was one of those days.”

Billingsley’s postgame comments were similar to the ones he made after a rough start in Cincinnati in April, which resulted in Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt calling him in for a meeting and imploring him to be more honest with himself.

Martin seemed to agree with Billingsley’s self-evaluation, saying Billingsley’s only shortcoming was his inability to put away hitters.

But the fact was that the Cardinals scored in all five innings that Billingsley started: three in the first; one each in the second, third and fourth; and two in the fifth. In each of those innings except the first, the leadoff batter reached base.

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