Tired old Dodgers need to recharge with new power source: Joc Pederson
His Dodgers teammates had long since disappeared into the warm Midwestern night, most of them slipping quickly out of Busch Stadium and losing themselves in the crowded streets filled with St. Louis Cardinals fans whooping up another victory.
Hanley Ramirez was not so lucky. An hour after the game, he was still in the game, the heaviness of the 4-2 Cardinals victory still lingering in the thick clubhouse air as he stood in front of his locker .
An hour after the game, he was still shirtless with a bag of ice wrapped in a brown bandage on his right shoulder.
He looked at the lone reporter remaining and winced.
“Just one day,” he said quietly, “I’d like to play without pain.”
Saturday was not one of those days. The remaining 21/2 months of the season will not contain any of those days. The man most responsible for the Dodgers’ charge last season no longer has the shoulder for the burden.
Hanley Ramirez, who struck out twice and stranded two runners, has become the symbol of a Dodgers team that suddenly finds itself in need of an injection, and not the kind doctors have twice put into Ramirez’s AC joint.
With only a dozen runs in their last seven games, they look old. Without a home run in their last six full games, they look tired. With mindless strikeouts and impatient double-play grounders filling Saturday’s score sheet, they look desperate.
With two losses in two playoff-type games with the Cardinals since the All-Star break, with a stretch of 10 more consecutive games against teams with winning records awaiting them, they need to look in the mirror.
“If you’re going to pick any stretch not to have a bad stretch, this is probably it,’' said Zack Greinke, who allowed four runs in Saturday’s first inning, enough to give him consecutive regular-season losses for the first time in nearly four years. “Worst-case scenario, this lasts one more series, at most.’'
One more series? Judging from the last two games against an October-style pitching staff, this offense looks as if it could be a grind until winter.
The three veteran outfielders — Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford — are scuffling to cover ground, struggling to swing the bat, and untradeable with contracts totaling $307 million.
Then there are the two guys who led last year’s resurgence, two power swingers who have been reduced to shadows. Yasiel Puig has one sore hand and zero homers since May 28. Ramirez has one sore shoulder and two homers since June 1.
The Dodgers think Puig will figure it out, but they don’t know whether the injured Ramirez can. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Saturday Ramirez’s impaired shoulder is affecting his swing, with no sure cure in sight.
“I think, Hanley, his shoulder definitely affects him, to be honest with you,” Mattingly said. “I think he’s going to be battling as the year goes on with that thing.”
Back in front of his locker, Ramirez slowly sat and shook his head.
“I’m not the guy who wants to sit on the bench, I can’t watch the game from the bench,’' Ramirez said. “I’m going to keep playing until my arm falls off.”
If the Dodgers offense continues in this vein, even in the mediocre National League, their playoff hopes could eventually fall off. Despite ranking third in the league in runs scored, their bats have been wildly inconsistent, having scored three runs or fewer in 46 of its 99 games, going 13-34 in those games. This is an offense that needs a burst of energy. This is an attack that needs another July jolt like last season.
In this space previously, the call was for the Dodgers to trade two of their top three star prospects for Tampa Bay star pitcher David Price. Now another mandate has appeared. The one prospect they should keep, center fielder Joc Pederson, should be called up from triple-A Albuquerque immediately to give them that charge.
Pederson is athletic, powerful — with a 1.025 on-base plus slugging percentage — and energetic. Another veteran outfielder will have to be benched to make room for him, but the excitement the kid will provide will overcome any bad chemistry his presence might cause. The Dodgers’ uniformed personnel can’t say anything, but you know they would love to see a kid such as Pederson give a push to the stiff and struggling clubhouse veterans. Mattingly can’t say anything, but you know he’s tired of watching his veteran hitters casually toss away midseason at-bats as if they were pesky pieces of junk mail instead of the precious stuff of championships.
While Mattingly publicly continued to contend he is happy with his current roster, he acknowledged Saturday his team needed a spark and that “sometimes, it happens all of a sudden.’'
Sometimes, Ned Colletti, it’s just a phone call away.
Follow Bill Plaschke on Twitter @billplaschke
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