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BILL PLASCHKE

Not even Tom Lasorda can stir these Dodgers

The ugliness piles up as the Dodgers limp to the playoffs, and the fans are left to wonder: Who are these guys?

October 03, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Now you can wonder.

Now you can worry.

Bases loaded, Manny Ramirez, October pressure -- whiff.

Bases loaded, Randy Wolf, October heat -- fastball banged to the wall.

Say what you want about the playoffs already being clinched, about the West Division championship being just a formality, about the Dodgers still being the Dodgers.

If they keep disintegrating this way, soon they won't even be able to recognize themselves.

Already, the rest of us have no idea who they are.

The clinch collapse continued Friday night in front of friendly fans and a partied-out opponent, and if the Dodgers couldn't get it going on a night when a tearful Tom Lasorda gave a public pregame pep talk, when can they get it going?

Chavez Ravine rocked with boos, the offense rocked on its heels, Ramirez kept rocking into oblivion, and the Dodgers were rolled by the Colorado Rockies, 4-3

Yeah, it's getting that bad.

The Dodgers' losing streak with a magic number of one has now reached five games.

Their West Division lead over the Rockies is now one game with two remaining.

Even poor Lasorda is getting drowned out.

It was his 60th Dodger anniversary celebration, and he was in fine form before the game, exhorting the fans after being honored on the field.

"Show these guys how much you love 'em because we're gonna win tonight!" he said.

Um, Gibby? Bulldog? Anybody?

Nobody.

Despite clinching a playoff berth the previous afternoon, it was the Rockies who looked desperate.

Despite having a chance to clinch not only a division title but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it was the Dodgers who again looked as if they were wobbly from champagne.

Wolf was mostly inconsistent, five hits and four walks in five innings of not-great stuff from a playoff-opener pitcher.

The offense was mostly intolerable, struggling to a point where they were one for 19 with runners in scoring position in the last four games.

And Manny was, rather sadly, being Manny.

Writing about Ramirez's nightly at-bats these days is like giving this town's hourly traffic report.

Pileup after pileup.

In the first inning Friday against Ubaldo Jimenez, with a runner on second base, he struck out looking.

In the third inning, with bases loaded, he stood there for a run-scoring wild pitch, then struck out swinging.

In the fifth inning, with a runner on second base, he ended the Dodgers' effort by whiffing again.

Then, again, in the seventh inning, two runners on base, he struck out wildly swinging again.

"I'm one of the best hitters out there," Ramirez repeatedly said after the game, as if trying to convince himself. "Remember, I'm a mountain."

His seventh-inning failure, then, was an avalanche, as his teammates were rallying from a 4-1 deficit, scoring twice on Russell Martin's rare homer and Andre Ethier's even more unusual RBI single against a left-handed pitcher.

Ethier was batting .189 against lefties entering the game, but he somehow survived against just-entered Joe Beimel, giving Dodger fans hope.

Not much hope elsewhere.

Things were so bad, Ramirez was booed from Hollywood to Mannywood.

Things were so bad, the loudest ovation through six innings was for Matt Kemp, and he had just grounded out.

The thing was, Kemp appeared to beat a throw from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and thus reacted by jumping in the air and throwing down his helmet and jawing with first base umpire Doug Eddings.

The fans weren't cheering the out, they were cheering the emotion, which is something you wonder if the Dodgers can find in time.

While next week's playoffs will once again make them whole, you have to wonder if this week's beatings will leave any scars.

No, there is no statistical correlation between a team's record at the end of the season and its performance in the playoffs.

There is no recorded instance of baseball momentum other than the next day's starting pitcher.

But at some point, doesn't sloppiness linger? Doesn't inattention infect? Doesn't it take a few days to get the smell out of the joint?

Oh, all this, and their postseason rotation just lost its best clutch starter.

The Dodgers announced before the game that Hiroki Kuroda will miss at least the first round with a bulging disk in his neck.

If Dodgers fans can console themselves about anything, it is that Manager Joe Torre seems to be playing for next week, while Colorado Manager Jim Tracy is clearly playing for this weekend.

In Torre's lifting of Wolf after only 91 pitches, he once again is showing his belief that the momentum of a division championship and home-field advantage is not as important as the momentum of a strong starter.

"That's clearly the priority," Torre said of next week.

Tracy, however, left his ace Jimenez in the game for 115 pitches, then finished by using Huston Street for a four-out save for only the second time this year.

"Yeah, it's only human that Tracy would want to beat the Dodgers to win this thing," Wolf said of the former Dodgers boss.

A more probable reason, perhaps, is that the Rockies rank second in the league with 51 home wins.

Next week, we'll see which manager was right. For now, the Dodgers are just all wrong.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillPlaschke

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