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Offense Sputters in 3-0 Dodger Loss

May 06, 2002|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers have enough trouble scoring runs when they do string together hits, as evidenced by a four-game stretch from Wednesday through Saturday in which they had 41 hits but scratched out only nine runs.

When they're not hitting, the Dodgers have virtually no chance, as evidenced by their 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night, when the Dodgers managed four measly singles before a sellout crowd of 52,758 in Dodger Stadium and lost for the fourth time in six games on the homestand.

Five Cub pitchers, including starter Matt Clement, combined to hand the Dodgers their major league-leading sixth shutout.

Only one Dodger reached second base, when Shawn Green's fourth-inning grounder went under first baseman Fred McGriff's legs for a two-base error.

The Dodgers began the game with a league-leading .265 average, but that mark fell to .260 Sunday night. They rank 11th in runs, 15th in home runs, 15th in walks, and first in double plays grounded into.

Left fielder Brian Jordan was hitless in 20 at-bats before his sixth-inning single Sunday and is batting .248. Shortstop Cesar Izturis has five hits in 32 at-bats, his average dropping from .284 to .250 in eight games.

Green had six hits in his previous three games but went 0 for 4 Sunday. The cleanup batter is hitting .246 with three homers and 18 runs batted in, which his far off his 2001 pace, when he had 49 home runs and 125 RBIs. The Dodgers have three home runs in their last 12 games.

But Manager Jim Tracy refuses to panic.

"To start thinking about overhauling the lineup, that's the wrong thing to do," Tracy said. "If it was one specific guy, maybe I'd juggle things here or there. But I don't know that that's a very good message to send to a group of guys who have a history of getting it done offensively.

"There's no need to beat a dead horse or point fingers. We know the element that we have to add to our game to be productive.

"There's a lot more we can do, but right now, the offense is not there."

The defense, which ranks second in the league in fielding percentage, and the pitching--the Dodgers have the league's second-lowest earned-run average (3.00)--have been there all season, and they were again Sunday night.

The Dodgers played errorless ball, and right-hander Kevin Brown gave them a strong start, giving up three runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking one in his second game back from the disabled list.

Brown had good life on his fastball, good sink on his split-fingered pitch, and his rhythm was good. His fortune, however, was not.

The first run Brown gave up came on a sharp-breaking, knee-high, split-fingered fastball, which Mark Bellhorn belted over the wall in right-center in the fourth inning. The second two runs came on Bellhorn's broken-bat flare that fell in front of Green in right field in the fifth.

"I don't have a horseshoe.... so from that standpoint, it didn't go well," Brown (1-3) said. "That's about what it takes to get a win, it looks like. The fact of the matter is, the pitches I gave up runs on were good pitches. If luck is in your corner, you make those pitches and get outs.

"If you don't have luck in your corner, you make those pitches and give up hits and runs."

The fifth-inning rally started when Brown's tailing fastball hit Clement in the right biceps with two out. Delino DeShields singled Clement to third, and DeShields stole second.

Brown shattered Bellhorn's bat with a pitch, but Bellhorn got enough of it to loop it into shallow right to score Clement and DeShields for a 3-0 lead. The rally proved costly, though. Clement, who did not give up a hit through four innings, departed because of a nasty bruise on his biceps after throwing several warm-up pitches before the fifth.

Clement was so upset he hurled his glove into the dugout wall and knocked over a water cooler. Left-hander Ron Mahay took over to start the fifth, and the bullpen baton was passed to Joe Borowski, Jeff Fassero and Antonio Alfonseca, who went 11/3 innings for his fifth save.

"You hate to leave a game when you feel so good--that's why I was so upset," said Clement, who may miss his next start.

"I let it out real quick, and I was fine. I'm just glad we won the game and I'm OK."

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