Reporting from San Diego — The Dodgers' clubhouse was silent, so much so that the humming of a stationary bicycle in an adjacent room was audible. About the only other sounds that could be heard came from the showers.
The Dodgers lost their fourth consecutive game on Tuesday night, their 2-1 defeat to the first-place San Diego Padres at Petco Park dropping their season record to 69-70.
They were 10 games behind the Padres in the National League West, 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card race and the end of the offensive hibernation felt like it was nowhere in sight.
Andre Ethier was planted in front of a laptop computer at the back end of the clubhouse, presumably watching videos of his at-bats. Casey Blake sat at his locker, staring into the back of his stall.
"We're not a .500 team," Blake said, meaning they should be better than that, "but we haven't played well enough to have a better record."
The last time the Dodgers had more wins than losses was May 11. They haven't finished a season with a sub-.500 record since 2005, when they lost 91 games.
Asked about how hopeful the Dodgers remained of reaching the postseason for the third consecutive season, Clayton Kershaw paused.
"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know. At this point, we have to focus on winning a game."
Right-hander Mat Latos, the Padres ace who had his scheduled start Monday pushed back a day because of stomach flu, held the Dodgers' dormant offense to one run and four hits over seven innings and struck out a career-high 10 batters.
Trailing, 2-1, the Dodgers threatened to tie the score in the eighth inning, as Jamey Carroll led off the inning with a double to the right-field corner. But Carroll never scored, as center fielder Chris Denorfia robbed pinch-hitter Jay Gibbons of a potential run-scoring hit on a diving catch in center field.
"That's the game," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.
All-Star Heath Bell took over for setup man Mike Adams at that point, striking out Scott Podsednik, walking Rafael Furcal and striking out James Loney on his way to a five-out save.
The Padres, who ended a losing streak at 10 games the previous night, had to scratch and claw for their runs against Kershaw. ("Playing Padres baseball," Bell called it.)
The Padres loaded the bases in the second inning with three consecutive singles, setting up a sacrifice fly by Aaron Cunningham that drove in Adrian Gonzalez for a 1-0 lead.
The advantage doubled in the third inning when Denorfia singled to left, was moved to second base on a bunt by David Eckstein and scored on a double to the left-field corner by Gonzalez.
Bye-bye to Belliard
A little more than a week after parting ways with Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers severed ties with his constant clubhouse companion. But Torre said Ramirez's departure had nothing to do with the decision to designate .217-hitting pinch hitter Ronnie Belliard for assignment.
"I got over that stuff a long time ago," Torre said of keeping the friends of star players. Torre noted how when he managed the New York Yankees, they traded Gerald Williams, who was close to Derek Jeter.
The Dodgers let go of Belliard to clear a spot on their 40-man roster so they could promote Australian-born outfielder Trent Oeltjen from triple-A Albuquerque. A career minor league player, the 27-year-old Oeltjen played 24 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year.
While Torre said the Dodgers wanted to see what they had in Oeltjen, he denied that this was an indication that they had given up on the season.
Hiroki Kuroda refuted the accuracy of a report that appeared in a Japanese sporting newspaper quoting an anonymous club source saying that he intends to play in Japan next season.
Kuroda, 35, is in the final year of a three-year, $35.3-million contract and will be a free agent in the winter. "I really haven't decided anything," Kuroda said.