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Manny's struggles having ripple effect

Manny's struggles have ripple effect

LOS ANGELES -- In evaluating the Dodgers' most recent inability to clinch the National League West -- a 4-3 loss to the Rockies on Friday -- manager Joe Torre tried to focus on the positive.

He thought the offense showed a lot more fight than it had in recent games. And he continued to downplay the Dodgers' recent struggle to win one game.

But the conversation before Saturday's game against the Rockies gradually shifted toward the struggling Manny Ramirez.

Ramirez struck out four times Friday night and left six men on base, and the Dodger Stadium crowd vehemently booed him for most of the night.

Ramirez's woes created a black hole in the Dodgers' lineup, as the three batters behind him -- Matt Kemp, Casey Blake and James Loney -- couldn't pick up the slack after each strikeout.

Kemp, Blake and Loney combined to go 0-for-12 on Friday with six strikeouts.

Torre has said throughout the season that when Ramirez is playing well it can pick up the rest of the offense, but can the same be said for when he doesn't hit?

Does an 0-for night hurt the Dodgers' morale as much as a 4-for-4 night boosts it?

"I don't think as much as it would have last year," Torre said. "I think these guys have been on their own a lot this year, and they have a lot more confidence.

"However, when somebody in the middle of the lineup is struggling like Manny was last night, everybody feels the pain. They all want him to do well."

While Ramirez insisted after the game Friday that nothing is wrong with his confidence or his approach at the plate, Torre acknowledged that some things look a little off from his vantage point.

"I thought he was forcing it a little bit and getting a little long with his swing," Torre said.

"Last night he couldn't get off his back side. He just looked like he stayed back -- he really wasn't coming through the ball."

One explanation for Ramirez's current funk is that he feels he needs to recreate the magic he brought to Los Angeles last season.

In 53 games with the Dodgers last season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs. Then he combined to go 13-for-25 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in two playoff series.

"He's trying to be that same guy all the time," Torre said. "He's a good teammate, he does all his work and he does all that stuff, and sometimes he puts a little bit too much pressure on himself."

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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