They aren't doing much right these days, but they sure have perfected the one-run offense. They were at it again in an 8-1 loss to the Reds that concluded another forgettable trip. The Dodgers lost four of five games as they staggered through Atlanta and Cincy, scoring one run in each defeat, after losing four of six in their first trip of the year.
They're off to their worst start since 1996, when they also were 8-12 after 20 games. On the upcoming brief homestand, they play first-place Arizona twice, then three with Colorado.
"Those series back-to-back could put us back on the map, if we do it the right way," said catcher Russell Martin.
That's a big if. On Tuesday night, manager Joe Torre sat struggling outfielder Andruw Jones, only for Jeff Kent's eight-game hitting streak to grind to a halt with an 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. The Dodgers hit into three double plays on the night and could muster a lone run on three hits over seven innings against Edinson Volquez, who struck out seven while mixing 96-mph fastballs with changeups.
"You never want to take anything away from someone who pitches well, but we're better than we're showing," insisted manager Joe Torre. "We're better than we've been swinging the bats."
Nonetheless, if you're name isn't Matt Belisle (Monday night's losing pitcher for the Reds), you have to like your chances against the Dodgers' offense right now. Lowe gets to face unbeaten Dan Haren on Wednesday night. Volquez, 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA, allowed three hits, and the only run scored when center fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. misplayed Rafael Furcal's liner into an RBI double.
"One run -- we can't keep doing that. We are better than that," said Matt Kemp, who went 0-for-3. "Arizona is putting up 10 runs a night and making things easier on their pitchers. We're going to turn this thing around. We'll be dangerous when everybody gets on the same page."
The Dodgers pitcher Tuesday night was fifth starter Hong-Chih Kuo, whose night was pretty well summed up in the midst of a four-run fourth inning when a Joey Votto line drive made a direct hit off Kuo's protective cup, the ball ricocheting to the third-base line for an infield single.
Kuo didn't flinch and stayed in the game, but only long enough to allow former Dodger Paul Bako's RBI single and Volquez's sacrifice bunt. Then he was charged with two more runs when Scott Proctor allowed one of Hairston's four hits.
In 3 2/3 innings, Kuo allowed five runs on eight hits -- including a homer to Adam Dunn on a fastball down the middle -- with no walks and only one strikeout. He came into the game with 15 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings and threw strikes, but he couldn't put away hitters. Five of the eight hits he allowed came on two-strike counts.
"They had good two-strike at-bats," suggested Martin. "They put the ball in play, not sharply hit balls. We kept hitting into double plays with runners on base. They're rally killers, not that we didn't hit the ball hard."
Torre said he was "anticipating to go" with Kuo on Saturday against the Rockies.
"I thought Kuo was better," said Torre. "His command was better than last outing. In the fourth inning, his pitching was better than the results. I took him out because of the situation, the guy [Hairston] had two hits off him. I was trying to keep the game close, although it didn't work. He still had a little left when I went out to get him."
Esteban Loaiza, who lost the starting job to Kuo, took over from Proctor and pitched three innings, allowing two runs, including a homer to Brandon Phillips.
Even the good-luck charms from Monday's breakout win lost their magic. The printout dugout gnome appeared shortly after first pitch. And Torre's horse racing connections -- Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and jockey agent Ron Anderson -- returned, this time with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.