LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Even a historic milestone by a ball club’s leader is sometimes not enough to invigorate a team that has experienced an early stroll through the encumbrance of limbo.
The Dodgers have lost four in a row, their first real losing streak of the season, and dropped five of their last six games after a 7-2 loss Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. To make matters worse, they’ve lost three in a row to a last place team that is making few friends in Los Angeles – the San Diego Padres.
In the 2nd inning, Yonder Alonso swung and missed on a high fastball by Clayton Kershaw, giving the 25-year-old and former Cy Young winner his 1000th career strikeout.
Kershaw is the 13th Dodger to reach the milestone, and the second youngest to do so, behind Fernando Valenzuela.
That jubilance did not find it’s way into the fourth inning.
Kershaw gave up a leadoff solo shot to Everth Cabrera and then gave up two walks and a single before the Padres took the lead after Jedd Gyorko grounded into a double play. Jesus Guzman then scored on a single by Kyle Blanks, who advanced to second after a wild pitch.
Chris Denorfia then led off the fifth inning with another home run to make it 4-1.
For good measure, the Dodgers did manage to load the bases in the bottom of the fifth. However, in the spirit of continuing what has plagued the Dodgers all year, Skip Schumaker grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning.
Kershaw then surrendered a home run to Blanks in the sixth inning, and a single to Nick Hundley, before being lifted from the game.
As much as the Dodgers bullpen has struggled recently, the offense has been the most puzzling aspect of the team.
The Dodgers are second to last in the league in runs scored at 39 – just seven in front of the last place Miami Marlins at 32.
Carl Crawford, who started the day with the second best batting average in the National League at .392, has been one of the sole weapons on the team that has met, even exceeded, expectations. With 21 hits in 54 at-bats and a .569 slugging percentage, the Dodgers seem to have finally found that leadoff hitter that can get on base consistently. The different is that the meat of the lineup simply is not hitting.
Matt Kemp, who did not start Wednesday night against the Padres, is batting .185 with 17 strikeouts in 54 at-bats, and has yet to hit his first home run. Though he proved to the Dodgers, and the rest of baseball, that he is one of the top players of the league, a night off may just be what the all-star centerfielder needs to recharge his batteries. However, some wonder whether he is fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery.
Kemp was called upon in the seventh inning with one out and the bases loaded, but what could have been a season-changing at-bat instead echoed the frustrations of the young season as he struck out, and Nick Punto flew to center field to end the inning.
With a high payroll, and even higher expectations, it is easy to become frustrated, even in the third week of the season. However, baseball teaches the lesson that fans must find positives through slumps. Hanley Ramirez is healing faster than anticipated, and in the event that the Dodgers need to temporarily fill in a spot in the outfield, baseball may get a look at a young man named Yasiel Puig.