With an uneven April finally behind them, the Dodgers are optimistic about May and what the new month might bring.
The beginning of May looks a lot like April.
An offense that often sputtered through the last month stalled again Thursday night in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium.
A crowd of 24,008 voiced its anger as the Dodgers produced only one run despite loading the bases with none out in the sixth and eighth innings. Adrian Beltre, Daryle Ward and Jolbert Cabrera had less-than-effective at-bats as the Philadelphia bullpen cheaply escaped the jams.
That ignited boos as the Dodgers again dropped below .500 at 14-15 after splitting the four-game series with the Phillies, and even perpetually upbeat Manager Jim Tracy acknowledged the bad performances.
"Each time, we got pitches to hit in those situations," Tracy said. "That's all I'll say about that."
Hideo Nomo (3-4) gave up three runs in the first on David Bell's RBI single and a two-run home run by Bobby Abreu, and Mike Lieberthal hit a solo shot in the sixth. But at least Nomo kept the Dodgers in the game over seven innings.
Brandon Duckworth (2-1) got help from four relievers. Terry Adams helped Duckworth in the sixth, and Turk Wendell made the key pitches in the eighth. Jose Mesa got Alex Cora on a grounder for the final out, recording his seventh save.
The Dodgers have shown signs recently of emerging from a season-long slump, though one couldn't tell from their squandered opportunities in the sixth and eighth.
In the sixth, they loaded the bases on consecutive first-pitch singles by Paul Lo Duca, Shawn Green and Fred McGriff, Duckworth reaching his limit after throwing 97 pitches in five-plus innings.
Bowa turned to Adams to face Beltre, who had hit home runs in the last two games. Beltre fouled out on Adams' third pitch, stirring boos, and Ward hit a grounder that would have ended the inning if Adams had not dropped the relay throw from shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Lo Duca crossed the plate on Adams' error, but Adams got Cabrera on a grounder to escape the jam and strand runners on the corners.
"You have to cash in on those situations," Tracy said. "To come away empty both times, we deserved the fate we got."
After working a 1-2-3 seventh, Adams was relieved when he walked Lo Duca leading off the eighth. Left-hander Dan Plesac entered to battle Green and McGriff. Green singled to right and McGriff drove the ball to right-center, where it dropped between center fielder Marlon Byrd and right fielder Abreu.
Wendell was the next reliever to oppose Beltre with the bases loaded, and that encountered also ended badly for the Dodgers. Fans booed louder as Beltre flied out to shallow left, prompting Lo Duca to hold at third.
Lo Duca was forced at the plate when Ward hit back to the mound, and Cabrera had another at-bat. He helped out Wendell after the setup man fell behind, 3-and-1, swinging at a pitch way outside the strike zone.
On a full count, Cabrera fouled out to first baseman Jim Thome.
"Tonight was pretty clear cut," Green said. "If we get a hit in those situations, it's a different ballgame."
Nomo withstood the Phillies' early knockout attempt.
Rollins opened the game with a ground-rule double. Bell followed with a single, and the speedy Rollins tested Cabrera, starting for injured center fielder Dave Roberts.
Cabrera's one-hop throw, slightly up the third-base line, arrived as Rollins reached the plate, and it popped out of catcher Lo Duca's glove as he reached back to make the tag. Bell moved to second on Cabrera's error as Abreu came to the plate.
Abreu lined a 2-and-1 pitch from Nomo into the right-field pavilion. The two-run shot was estimated at 415 feet, and the Phillies appeared to have Nomo on the ropes.
But Nomo doesn't buckle easily.
The No. 1 starter retired the next three batters in the first, and the side in the second, fourth and fifth.
Nomo gave up only a third-inning single to Bell over the next 4 2/3 scoreless innings, but made a two-out mistake to Lieberthal in the sixth that extended the Phillies' lead to 4-0.