WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers are playing so poorly at such a critical juncture that it was just a matter of time until the finger-pointing commenced.
Matt Kemp pointed the finger -- at himself. The Dodgers can't drive in a runner from second base to save their season, and yet Kemp had his own take on his team's offensive disaster.
"I blame it on myself," he said. "The damn leadoff hitter needs to step up and do something."
For the Dodgers, somebody better step up and do something, before they end up in third place in the National League West. They lost their sixth consecutive game Wednesday, 5-4, to the Washington Nationals, but they lost no ground in this charade of a pennant race.
If the Dodgers lose tonight, they'll be swept by the team with the worst record in the league. But the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks just got swept by the team with the second-worst record in the league, the San Diego Padres.
"I don't care about Arizona," Kemp said. "We don't need to worry about anything Arizona is doing if we take care of our job."
The Diamondbacks lead the Dodgers by three games, and the teams play three games in Phoenix this weekend. But the Colorado Rockies, who closed with a September rush last season, have crept to within three games of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers did some things right Wednesday. They hit three home runs -- by James Loney, Casey Blake and Andre Ethier -- ending a 36-inning homerless streak in the process. They scored more than three runs for the first time in nine games.
They did more things wrong. They failed in the clutch, again, as all three homers were solo shots. The Dodgers went one for 11 with runners in scoring position. In the last four games, they're five for 50 (.100) in that situation.
They gave up two unearned runs, one after 17-time Gold Glove winner Greg Maddux threw so high to second base on an attempted force play that he overthrew shortstop Nomar Garciaparra covering the bag and hit Jeff Kent, backing up in short center field, on the fly.
And, in his second start since the Dodgers acquired him last week, Maddux again offered little evidence he could strengthen the Dodgers' rotation. He struck out none, for the first time this season. He gave up four runs, two earned, and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Nationals got all eight hits within a span of 17 batters. In 11 innings with the Dodgers, Maddux has given up 17 hits.
"I still think he has the ability to help us," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.
Then there is Kemp, the accidental leadoff hitter, who has not scored a run during this losing streak, the Dodgers' longest of the season. Kemp is batting .148 during this streak.
"My job is to get on base," he said. "I feel like I'm one of the main reasons our offense isn't going."
He went hitless in five at-bats Wednesday but reached base on an error -- and was then thrown out trying to steal. He batted with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning, flied out and slammed his bat to the ground.
Torre says he does not plan to replace Kemp with Juan Pierre, the experienced leadoff hitter on the Dodgers' bench.
"Matt is so unpredictable," Torre said. "He may go 0 for two, three or four, but he may light it up."