Hello Kitty Couldn't Save the Dodgers
Not even Hello Kitty could salvage this mess. With a 7-2 loss to the San Diego Padres the Dodgers fall to 7-8 and just got swept by a team that entered the series with a 2-10 record.
"We just haven't clicked yet," Justin Sellers told me about the hitting woes. He towed the company line promising me, "We have a good line up. It's only 15 games."
Of course I was talking to the team optimist, the one who can easily forget a bad play, a bad at-bat, and move on to the next one.
And I get it. I completely understand how championships can't be won in April. The league-leading Atlanta Braves are 12-2, the exact same record the Dodgers were in the 2005 season. That Dodger team, decimated by injuries, ended the season 71-91.
"See," Sellers said when I told him. "Things happen in baseball."
But let's look at the facts. The Dodgers got swept by the Padres. That fact cannot be repeated enough. This $200 million-plus team managed only seven runs against Eric Stults, Jason Marquis and Tyson Ross.
Following the Angels cue from last week, the Dodgers held a postgame meeting. Manager Don Mattingly didn't disclose what was said in the meeting but it was clear he was trying to keep his team up.
"We have to move forward," Mattingly said. "We're 15 games in, 7-8. Obviously that's not good enough, but it's not the point where we throw up the white flag yet."
Mattingly noted that he's not feeling the confidence in his lineup from the bench during games.
"This club should feel like a club that's in every game," Mattingly continued. "If we're going to make some noise, we've got to be a confident club."
The dearth in confidence was clear before the game when Mattingly benched Matt Kemp and his .185 batting average. More than being fooled by sliders down and away like he was in 2010, Mattingly noticed he needed a day off just from his body language.
"When things aren't going right, you have a tendency to want to make it happen which is more trouble," Mattingly said. "Just being around the game, guys struggle.
"Sometimes it just helps to sit back and watch a game where you're not having to be out there."
Even without their clubhouse leader, things didn't look too bad when the Dodgers scored first thank to an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly in the third inning. The Dodgers had a 1-0 lead, and Clayton Kershaw on the mound. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot actually, especially when Kershaw decided to channel his 2008 self.
"I just wasn't very good tonight," Kershaw admitted saying he couldn't get his breaking balls over for strikes.
He coasted through the lineup the first time around with the exception of the opposing starting pitcher Tyson Ross who scorched a 370-foot flyball single in the third inning.
It went downhill from there. Everth Cabrera led off the fourth inning with a home run, and everything fell apart. Chase Headley, in his first game back after missing a month with a thumb injury, walked. Jesus Guzman singled and Yonder Alonso walked to load the bases. A double play and a single later the Padres had the 3-1 lead and never looked back.
Denorfia homered off of Kershaw for good measure to lead off the fifth, and everything afterwards was like kicking Hello Kitty in the uterus.
"I don't really know what happened," Kershaw said. "I was probably falling behind too much."
With or without Kemp in the lineup, the Dodgers still had their chances leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh innings. In fact the Dodgers should have scored a run in the seventh inning when A.J. Ellis hit a single up the middle that went to the wall. With Mark Ellis on second base as the lead runner, it sure looked like the Dodgers would put up a tally on the scoreboard.
Inexplicably he was at third base, and the bases were loaded.
"It's one of those balls in the gap you can't get caught," Mattingly explained noting that Mark Ellis' run wasn't a game changer at that point. "Mark's got to make sure the ball drops."
Kemp stepped up to the plate to the roar of the thousands who remained at the park hoping that the Dodgers would make a game of it. Kemp struck out and Nick Punto flew out to centerfield to end the threat.
In the ninth inning with the bases loaded, Kemp hit a sacrifice fly.
Things could be a lot worse. This could be the Angels. But with all the money the team has spent to try and deliver a championship, I sure hope they kept the receipt just in case.
Because even though Hello Kitty brought 52,393 people to the yard, the fifth sellout of the season, only a few hundred remained at 10:56 p.m. when the game ended a full 30 minutes after the Lakers clinched the seventh seed in the overtime victory against Houston.
Sellers and Mattingly is right: it's still early. Just try telling that to the paying customers.