Asked about what has happened to the Dodgers offense, hitting coach Don Mattingly forced a smile and shook his head. The man expected to one day replace Joe Torre as Dodgers manager couldn't provide any definitive answers.
"It's really kind of confusing and frustrating," Mattingly said.
The kind of offensive output the Dodgers had in their 2-1 defeat to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night at AT&T Park has become increasingly common. On a night Chad Billingsley held the Giants to one run over seven innings, the Dodgers didn't score until the ninth inning, when Andre Ethier hit a home run. They managed only four hits, giving them five in their last two games.
Last year, the Dodgers led the National League in hitting. And heading into the All-Star break this year, Mattingly said he felt positive about the team's offense.
"The second half, all of a sudden it goes the other way," he said. "I haven't done anything different. I never try to change anything, as far as how to approach at-bats."
Before the game Wednesday, the Dodgers ranked 11th in the National League in hitting and 12th in runs.
Playing without Manny Ramirez for much of the season hurt, Mattingly said.
"I don't care if he hits for power or not," he said. "He's going to hit. He's a force in the lineup. Even though he may not have been the same guy, pitchers don't know that. They still see Manny."
Mattingly said he was particularly perplexed by how Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney have failed to hit their way out of their respective slumps. Mattingly wondered aloud whether Ethier was hindered by the leg problems he has endured this season, among them a sore right knee.
So does the responsibility fall on the hitting coach or the players?
"In the end, as a player, I always took responsibility for what happened," Mattingly said.
But Mattingly said he wasn't blameless.
"You always take responsibility for what's going on," he said. "I'm supposed to be helping these guys."
Remembering a friend
Asked about his memories of Al LaMacchia, Ethier smiled and recalled how frequently he saw the longtime scout during the summer he played in the Texas League.
"I thought it was some crazy old man yelling at me from the stands," Ethier said, adding that he could still hear him telling him to hit the ball the opposite way.
LaMacchia, who died Wednesday at 89, became more than a friend to Ethier, as he convinced Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti to acquire him from the Oakland Athletics in 2005.
"I don't know if you can be rung up on tampering charges after you've passed away … but I think he'll get a pardon from the commissioner on this one," Ethier said.
Ethier said he last spoke to LaMacchia about a month ago, when LaMacchia called to congratulate him on the birth of his second child.
Gibbons looks to the future
Only recently did Jay Gibbons start to look ahead to next season. And he said that was because he was starting to get asked about his future.
"My goal was to get back to the big leagues," Gibbons said. "I didn't think past that at the time. Anything on top of that was gravy."
Until Gibbons was promoted by the Dodgers in August, he hadn't played in the majors since 2007, the year he was named in the Mitchell Report.
But now that he lets his mind wander to the future every now and then, Gibbons said he would like to play for the Dodgers again next season.
"This is the dream job," said Gibbons, a Southern California native.
Torre is giving Gibbons the opportunity to showcase himself. Gibbons, who batted fourth Wednesday, has hit cleanup or fifth in each of his last five starts.