WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers' run of offensive futility has gotten so bad, they're inventing new ways not to score runs. And against the worst team in baseball no less. Tuesday's episode included four double plays, 10 runners left on base and a lineout double play with the bases loaded, as the Dodgers dropped their season-high-tying fifth straight game, 2-1, to the Nationals at Nationals Park.
"You've been through streaks, bad streaks, and a lot of crazy things happen," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, whose club is 4-for-39 with runners in scoring position in its past three games. "But every time it happens, you feel like it's the first time because it's so draining to you." In another night of frustrating at-bat after frustrating at-bat with runners in scoring position, no out was more frustrating than the screaming liner off the bat of Nomar Garciaparra after Los Angeles had loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, trailing, 2-1. Instead of finding a hole and plating a couple of runs, it found the glove of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who doubled Manny Ramirez off third base. After the Nationals intentionally walked Casey Blake to load the bases once again, Derek Lowe struck out swinging to end the threat. "We've just been extremely unlucky right now, which is kind of crazy," Garciaparra said. "We're doing the right things, the luck's not happening, things aren't falling at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, in baseball, it's one of those things, it's harder than any other sport, you can do everything right and still have a negative result." Added Torre, "You laugh. You say, 'Well, it's going to have to be somebody else.'" Unfortunately for the Dodgers on this road trip, it has never been anybody else. Even when they scored in the fifth, it took a bizarre play to make it happen. The Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs after Garciaparra and Blake were hit by pitches and Lowe walked, only to have Matt Kemp hit a ground ball to third, where Zimmerman stepped on third for the forceout and threw home trying to complete a 5-2 double play, the exact same situation that felled Los Angeles' 10th-inning rally on Saturday. But catcher Jesus Flores didn't realize that the force had been removed, and he never tagged Garciaparra, who scooted home to end the Dodgers' 17-inning scoreless streak, and only after the umpire, who was also unaware the force was not on at home, originally called Garciaparra out. "We benefited from some weird stuff that went on, too," Torre said. "All that stuff pretty much evens out. Right now, we haven't been able to get the job done." In a situation that Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley could undoubtedly relate to, Derek Lowe (10-11) once again pitched a great game but felt he did not do enough despite throwing a complete game of eight innings, yielding two runs on six hits. He gave up a solo homer to Lastings Milledge in the second and an RBI single to Cristian Guzman in the third, then kept the Nationals off the scoreboard the rest of the way. That's why Torre said he did not really think about pinch-hitting for Lowe with the bases loaded in the sixth at a time he had given up just three hits. "I think in games like that, as a starting pitcher, you have to know going into the game that you've got to try to keep them to one or less runs, and I wasn't able to do that," Lowe said. "So even though, yeah, I went deep into the game, I still look at it as a disappointing start because you know that your job is, sometimes, the starting pitcher has to pick up the offense and vise versa. Sometimes we're not doing very good and the offense picks us up. The big hit by Guzman gave them a 2-0 lead, and ultimately, that was the difference." The Dodgers have now lost eight of 10 since a five-game winning streak over playoff contenders Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Dodgers' six-game winning streak at Nationals Park was snapped, and Lowe lost his first career game against Washington after winning his first five decisions against the Nationals. As the Dodgers left for their hotel shaking their heads at their inability to get the big hit, Lowe said their problem comes down to just trying too hard. "I think, in this game, trying harder normally doesn't get you anywhere, and I think that's such a hard thing to fight," he said. "You can't give 110 percent. I think that's where we are. There's no lack of preparation, there's no such thing as guys not trying. I think, as a collective group, sometimes you've got to try less to get more. "You've got to come out tomorrow and continue to keep playing the way we are, as crazy as that sounds. We can't try to change things, maybe just relax as a collective group, and hopefully things will change."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.