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Dodgers Anemic Against Vazquez

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Dodgers manager Joe Torre called a meeting after today’s 8-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves (58-54).

“I just wanted to give them my perspective on where we are,” said Torre, “how we haven’t really been playing well for a period of time and how we’re still controlling our own destiny.”

The Dodgers (67-45) haven’t been playing well falling to 2-5 on the homestand.

“Every team goes through stretches like this,” catcher Russell Martin said after the game. “I’m sure we’ll pick it up. We’ve got what it takes - we’ve got the arsenal.”

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The Dodgers offense was stymied by Braves starter Javier Vazquez (10-7) who went eight innings giving up a run on five hits and two walks with a strikeout. Despite the Dodgers getting on base for every inning except the first and third innings, he kept the Dodgers down.

“[Javier Vazquez] did a great job today,” Torre said. “He may bend a little bit, but he doesn’t break. He’s a tough kid.”

The only time Vazquez did break was in the fourth inning. With the Braves leading 3-0 rightfielder Andre Ethier lead off the inning with a single to rightfield. Manny Ramirez then hit a check-swing double that just barely landed fair down the rightfield line.

“He’s trying to fight the ball off and use more of the field,” Torre said of Manny’s approach to the plate. “He’s been coming off when he takes that big swing, he come real long and off the ball. He’ll work his way around.”

Casey Blake hit a sacrifice fly to the rightfield corner scoring Ethier and advancing Manny to third.

Just as the rally was starting, it abruptly ended. Centerfielder Matt Kemp hit a bloop fly ball caught by shortstop Escobar on the leftfield line who doubled off Manny by a country mile trying to score.

After getting out meekly in the first, the Braves came back in the next three innings getting a run per inning off of Dodgers starter Eric Stults (4-3).

In the second inning rightfielder Matt Diaz hit a solo home run, his sixth of the season.

The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning when second baseman Kelly Johnson who led the inning off with a single scored from second off of third baseman Martin Prado’s single with two outs.

Stults got into trouble again in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Shortstop Yunel Escobar scored when first baseman Adam LaRoche hit into a double play giving the Braves a 3-0 lead. Stults got second baseman Kelly Johnson to fly out to Manny to minimize the damage.

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“He kept us in the game,” Torre said of Stults’ performance. “I thought Stultsie for the SOS we sent out to get him here, he held us in it considering he pitched the other day. I thought he did okay.”

“The big thing for me was that one inning I got the bases loaded,” Stults said of that fourth inning. “My fault. I walked a guy and then hit a guy and was able to get out just giving up one run. I felt that was key for me, to keep us in the game right there.”

Reliever Jeff Weaver came in the game in the sixth inning and retired nine consecutive batters on 25 pitches, 20 of which were strikes.

But the door would finally shut for the Dodgers in the ninth inning. Still down by two runs, Torre sent in Ramon Troncoso to pitch the ninth. Once the damage was done, Troncoso gave up four runs while Guillermo Mota gave up one giving the Braves an 8-1 lead.

Though the Dodgers would get one run back in the bottom half of the inning, it was too much too late.

“You can’t let it get you down,” second baseman Orlando Hudson said of the tough homestand. “It’s a good team we’ve got here, and we’ve got to keep fighting, keep playing hard, keep a smile on our face and keep banging.”

The Dodgers now head to San Francisco to face the Giants who trail them by 5 ½ games. It’s their first NL West showdown since July 5 when they defeated the San Diego Padres in Petco Park 7-6 in 13 innings.

“Right now we aren’t playing very well,” Torre reiterated. “We will just have to tough it out.”