MIAMI — Dodger Manager Bill Russell, whose calm temperament has been his trademark during these troubling times, found himself seething Friday night, struggling to control his anger.
He kept his office door shut for nearly 20 minutes after the Dodgers' 4-2 loss to the Florida Marlins in front of 40,151 at Pro Player Stadium. He paced the clubhouse. He walked in and out of the trainer's room. He was constantly on the move, afraid that he would say something regrettable if he stayed still.
It's not as if he has never seen his offense struggle, but when your team produces only four hits, loses for the fourth time in the last five games, and shows no sign of life, it's enough to make a grown man scream to the heavens.
"It's not like this is the first time it's happened," Russell said, "this has been going on all year. They know they're not doing the job.
"You keep trying things, working on this, doing that, but it's not happening right now for anyone.
"There's only so much you can do.
"Hopefully, it will turn. It's got to, because these are the guys we'll be going with."
The Dodgers (11-8), who were convinced their offense would improve this year, instead are living a nightmare. They have scored two or fewer runs in nine games, including four of their last five. They have only five extra-base hits the last five games.
Incredibly, the Colorado Rockies have already scored twice as many runs as the Dodgers this year.
"We stink right now," said first baseman Eric Karros, who's in a two-for-22 slump, batting .225. "The middle of the lineup isn't doing a hell of a lot. None of us have done our jobs, period.
"You can look at the statistics and the three of us are [Mike Piazza, Karros and Raul Mondesi] are. . . . It just isn't one guy."
But Mondesi was the one who stuck out this night. He was the one guy who could have made a difference.
Instead, he was the guy whose mistakes became glaring, refusing to talk to reporters after the game.
The Dodgers, trailing 2-1, were on the verge of tying the score in the sixth when Mondesi led off with a triple into the right-center-field gap. Karros came up and hit a foul pop-up into shallow right field. Right fielder Cliff Floyd, who replaced Gary Sheffield when he was ejected in the first inning for arguing a called third-strike, stumbled, caught the ball, and was off-balance.
Mondesi thought about tagging up, but with one out, stayed put. Floyd threw the ball anyway, and his throw skipped past catcher Charles Johnson. Pitcher Al Leiter, backing up the play, picked up the ball. But no one was covering home.
Mondesi took off for home plate, but Leiter quickly threw the ball to Johnson, who was retreating toward home. Mondesi went back to third, but it was too late. He was caught in a rundown and thrown out at the plate. The inning ended when Todd Zeile struck out, extending his miseries.
Zeile is now batting .138 and is hitless in his last 16 at-bats.
"That's just the way it's going for us right now," Karros said. "The sacrifice fly turned into a cluster-flop. I've never seen anything like that before in my life."
Mondesi was given ample opportunities to amend the mistake, but he left the bases loaded in the seventh when the grounded out to shortstop Edgar Renteria, and ended the game by striking out with runners on first and third. The Dodgers wound up leaving 10 runners on base, five by Mondesi.
"Guys are just putting too much pressure on themselves," said Piazza, who was relegated to pinch-hitting duties because of a swollen left knee. "Everybody's trying to carry the whole team, and you just can't do that."
The only players consistently hitting are Brett Butler and Greg Gagne at the top of the order. They combined for three of the four hits, including a first-inning solo homer by Gagne that ended a 20 at-bat hitless skein against Leiter. Yet, despite Butler's .361 batting average and Gagne's .352 average, they have combined for only 15 runs. No one is driving them in.
Marlin outfielder Moises Alou, who drove in all four of the Marlin runs--including his fifth homer in the last six games in the sixth inning--has 22 RBIs himself.
"Right now," Butler said, "we've got to take inventory and figure out what it will take to win a ball game."