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Dodgers

Dodgers can’t get rid of an unsettling pattern and lose to Padres, 5-2

The sixth loss in a row resembled the fifth loss in a row, which resembled the fourth and the others before. During the most miserable week of this young Dodgers season, the team has acted like a record stuck on a discordant note, repeating the same bothersome sound every night.

So, Saturday: A 5-2 loss.

The victors: The San Diego Padres, a team with a losing record, just like the Miami Marlins, who captured a four-game sweep during the week.

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The record: 12-13, below .500 for the first time this season.

The culprits: An offense that remains missing since a 12-run outburst April 24 in Colorado. The Dodgers sport the highest payroll in the National League, but on Saturday they looked flummoxed by the pitching of San Diego Padres starter Colin Rea. The lineup had one hit after Chase Utley’s home run in the third inning.

“You look at tonight, and you don’t see a whole lot of signs that it’s going to turn,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “But you know what? They’re still confident. It might not seem like it. But they’re still working their tails off.”

The blame can also be spread onto the Dodgers’ pitcher. Ross Stripling came up with the least effective start of his brief career. San Diego booted him from the game in the fifth inning. He gave up five runs and could not quell the heart of the Padres order.

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The season is too long and the NL West is too muddled with mediocrity for the Dodgers to despair. Despite the skid, the Dodgers somehow finished April in first place. But to do so in such dispiriting fashion must rankle both Roberts and confound the front office of Andrew Friedman.

“When you don’t get guys on base and things aren’t going on, it looks lackluster and low-energy,” Roberts said. “But that just comes with not hitting. Any team that’s struggling offensively, that’s the perception. But it’s not like guys are trying any less.”

Roberts called a team meeting Friday. Before Saturday’s defeat, the team opted for levity over despair. Someone scrawled a message in red ink on a clubhouse whiteboard: “Winning baseball games is the ONLY thing that matters!” The quote was attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

Much like Gandhi, the Dodgers offense practiced nonviolence during the previous five nights.

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The Dodgers scored only nine runs in 45 innings. On Friday, they could not decipher a journeyman named Cesar Vargas. On Saturday, the Dodgers did not continue a weeklong practice of stranding runners. Instead, the team did not produce many runners in the first place.

The Padres bruised Stripling with a trio of doubles for two runs the third inning. Utley tied the score with his first home run of the season in the bottom of the inning.

Stripling wavered in the fifth, walking Wil Myers and Matt Kemp with two outs. He surrendered a two-run double to Melvin Upton Jr. and a run-scoring single to Alexei Ramirez before Roberts yanked him.

“It seems like around the fourth, fifth inning is when they start to get after me,” Stripling said. “As far as the third time through the lineup, they’re really starting to adjust.

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“I need to start adjusting as well, or else it’s going to be rough.”

His teammates could not pick him up. A triple by Carl Crawford in the fourth inning was the last Dodgers hit. The team whimpered into a losing record.

“In baseball, you just can’t beat someone over the head,” Roberts said. “You can’t yell at them. As a hitter, you can’t get ‘more mad’ and do better. That doesn’t equate to being better. It actually works against you.”

So the Dodgers emphasized a public calm. After the game, Adrian Gonzalez grabbed a marker and found the whiteboard.

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“Can’t hit — sucks,” he wrote.

“Lose 6 in a row — sucks.

“Still in first place — priceless.

“Perspective — win tomorrow!”

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That would be a welcome change.

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter: @McCulloughTimes


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