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No Muscle, Just Victories

August 16, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Recent game-winning home runs aside, the Dodgers have not exactly powered their way to the top of the National League West.

They had more infield hits (113) than homers (102) before Tuesday night's game against Florida at Dodger Stadium, ranking last in the NL in the latter category. The Dodgers are on pace to hit 138 homers, which would be their fewest since hitting 124 during a 2003 season memorable only for offensive ineptitude.

Luckily for the 2006 Dodgers, all offensive comparisons with the 2003 team end there. The current Dodgers led the league through Monday with a .279 batting average, 1,150 hits, 40 triples and a .352 on-base percentage. In the most important category -- runs -- they ranked fourth with 595.

"We know we score a lot of runs; we don't really care how they come," Manager Grady Little said. "We'd like to see more [home runs], but we can't sit there and start teaching players to go up there trying to hit home runs. Then I would hate to see where we would be."

At their current pace, the Dodgers would not feature a hitter with 20 homers for the first time in a non-strike season since 1972, when Frank Robinson and Willie Davis each hit 19. Nomar Garciaparra and Wilson Betemit, who lead the Dodgers with 13 homers apiece, are on pace to hit roughly 18. Nine of Betemit's homers came with Atlanta.

"I knew when I came in here we were going to lack power," General Manager Ned Colletti said. "The free-agent market this year, my impression was that it was thin in power hitters. Home run hitters are almost like No. 1, No. 2 starters. They're tough to come by. You just can't make them appear out of nowhere, so it's a process."

Though the Dodgers lineup features three players -- Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew -- who have posted 30-homer seasons for other teams, their power productivity has taken a dip this season. Unlike Kent and Garciaparra, who have each endured two stints on the disabled list, Drew has been relatively sound.

"I think they're all behind a little bit," Colletti said. "It wouldn't have been out of the question to expect 20-plus, especially out of J.D. and Jeff, but they've been hurt, so you can't discount that piece of it either."


Little said he planned to give shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has started 116 of the Dodgers' 120 games, a day off today. Catcher Russell Martin is also scheduled to have the day off.... Little said there was a "good possibility" that he would go with a 12-man pitching staff when reliever Elmer Dessens rejoins the team Friday, meaning that infielder James Loney could be returned to triple-A Las Vegas until rosters expand Sept. 1. Little said he and Colletti would probably assemble their list of call-ups during the trip that starts Friday in San Francisco.

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