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Dodgers can't convert for Kuroda

Dodgers can't convert for Kuroda

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ATLANTA -- Back in the day, when it was Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in their primes, the Dodgers had good reason to get swept by the Braves.

But getting swept by Jeff Bennett, Chuck James and Jair Jurrjens -- while scoring one run a game?

What's that about?

"The whole series, they outpitched us and outhit us and that's why they won," Andruw Jones said after his former team beat his new team on Sunday, 6-1 -- the first time the Dodgers were swept here in eight years. "They just outplayed us and that's about it."

The bottom line for the Dodgers is they're at the bottom of the National League West division standings. The good news is that it's only April, but the bad news also is that it's only April. The Dodgers have never finished first in a season when they've fallen six games back in April. After 18 games, they're on a 99-loss pace.

"I'd say that was pretty much the best series we've played in three years," said Atlanta's Chipper Jones. "We played pretty much a perfect series."

Offensively, the Dodgers were pretty much rendered clueless on Sunday against Jones' fellow Curacao native Jurrjens, who struck out a career-high eight, including Jones three times.

With starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda (1-2) bobbing and weaving his way through six difficult but effective innings, the only support came from Russell Martin's solo homer in the fourth. The Dodgers' offense had only five hits, stranded 10 runners and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, bringing its series total to a breathtakingly futile 1-for-23.

"It's frustrating and everybody feels the heat from it," said manager Joe Torre. "Everybody thinks they have to be the one to do it. We just have to find a way to exhale. I sense a lot of tension and we have to fight our way through it."

Of course, we're talking about a Hall of Fame-caliber manager here, so anybody looking for a clubhouse eruption or a panic-button pushing was in the wrong place, even with the Arizona Diamondbacks threatening to run away with the division.

"We can't concern ourselves with other teams," said Torre. "If you win enough games, you get the opportunity to play in October. You win as many as you can, and if it's not enough, it's not enough. I think it's too early. I'm not sitting here saying we're going to be OK and not try to change things. It's not like you're not concerned with what you see.

"As far as the season, it's a little early to write things off or say, if it doesn't happen soon, it won't happen. There should always be a sense of urgency, but you only play one game at a time. If you start thinking of how many games you have to win, you're getting beyond the field. Try to make what we strive to do doable, so it makes sense. Right now, the goal is .500. We get there, we'll set another goal."

Torre said it was safe to assume he would share these views with the team in the regular series meeting before Monday night's game in Cincinnati. Otherwise, it would be business as usual. There was no dramatic postgame meeting Sunday, no cancelling of batting practice for Monday.

He doesn't figure to send out the same lineup, however. For Sunday, Torre rested veterans Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, along with subbing Juan Pierre for Matt Kemp. Pierre nearly created a run by himself when it would have mattered with an eighth-inning infield single and a pair of stolen bases while representing the tying run.

But he was stranded at third, and in the bottom of the inning, the Braves hammered reliever Scott Proctor for four runs on five hits and blew open a game that Andre Ethier kept close with a spectacular diving catch of Martin Prado's bases-loaded drive in the gap to end the sixth inning.

Martin returned to the lineup after sitting for six innings on Saturday because of an offensive slump. Although he homered, he also struck out twice and grounded into an inning-ending forceout with runners on the corners in the eighth.

"It stinks that we're losing so many games early, but it's nothing that can't turn around," Martin said. "The guys on this team have character. If we turn it around, we have to keep working. We have to earn it, and if we do that, it's going to be great."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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