Dodgers' offense quiet in loss to Arizona

Dodgers' offense quiet in loss to Arizona

LOS ANGELES -- Like most parties, there was the giddy celebration, then the hangover. For the Dodgers on Thursday, whatever emotional lift the acquisition of Manny Ramirez provided before the game quickly gave way to the sobering reality of why he's being brought in to begin with.

The faltering Dodgers offense, the one Ramirez is expected to resuscitate, was tranquilized by Arizona ace Brandon Webb in a 2-1 loss that dropped Ramirez's new team two games out and back to .500. It was their 29th loss this year while scoring one or no runs.

Before the game, Derek Lowe warned his club not to wait around for Manny to win games, then it looked like they were doing it before Ramirez even arrived. He's expected to be in the lineup Friday night.

The Dodgers scratched out a single run on a groundout in the sixth inning, then had the potential tying run erased at the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning when Andre Ethier was thrown out by Conor Jackson on a fly ball to shallow left field by Matt Kemp.

Lowe is familiar with, and a huge fan of, Ramirez from their days together in Boston. Unfortunately, he's also familiar with stingy offensive support. He's 8-9 this year, the Dodgers having scored 10 runs in his nine losses.

He wasn't blaming his teammates for this one, although the lineup was particularly light. Middle infielders Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent were on the bench with sore knees and Ethier was held out for late-inning duty because he had been nauseous all day.

Still, the Dodgers gave Lowe a 1-0 lead in the sixth, but he immediately gave it back in a two-run seventh inning that snapped the Dodgers pitching staff's streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings.

"I take responsibility for the loss," said Lowe. "In that inning, I threw a terrible pitch to Jackson. They did a good job getting the guy to third, then the double by [Mark] Reynolds and the single [by Chris Snyder]. They didn't try to do too much."

And the Dodgers didn't do enough against Webb, who pitched like the ace that he is. He went eight innings to raise his record to 15-4 and lower his ERA to 3.04. He's 10-3 lifetime against the Dodgers.

"You almost feel you have to pitch almost a perfect game as far as making no mistakes," said Lowe. "He's one of the toughest you can face."

And the mistake, if you could call it one, was for the Dodgers to get the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth inning on base and come away empty. Pinch-hitters Ethier and Mark Sweeney singled off Webb, bringing up leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, who obeyed orders and bunted the runners over.

Kemp followed with his shallow fly. Ethier took off when he got the word from third-base coach Larry Bowa. Jackson's throw tailed into foul territory, but Snyder had time to catch it on a bounce and tag Ethier on the face with a lunge. Plate umpire Angel Hernandez made the correct call, Ethier said.

"It's one of those plays where you have to take your chance to get the run across," said Ethier.

Torre didn't question the decision of Ethier or Bowa.

"You've got to force [the D-backs] to make not only the throw, but the catch and the tag," he said. "I never thought we'd do anything other than that."

That left Torre to dodge a question or two about what he'll do with five outfielders when Ramirez shows up. His hand will be further limited by the fact that Ramirez is limited to left field and that's where Torre has played Pierre this year almost exclusively.

With Ramirez and his questionable defense in left field, the Dodgers will need defense in center, which should mean Andruw Jones and his 10 Gold Gloves, except that he's essentially been benched because of his bat. If defense is important, Kemp will play center over Pierre.

If Torre holds to his "hot hand" explanation for benching Jones, the most likely alignment will be Ramirez in left, Kemp in center and Ethier in right. Any way he does it, though, there will be two unhappy outfielders on the bench.

There's also a roster move necessary to make room for Ramirez. It could be Garciaparra going on the disabled list, although he was moving around pretty well during drills before the game. It could be Sweeney, although it looks like his bat has finally awakened. Or it could be a pitcher, although Torre loves the flexibility of his current bullpen.

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