Dodgers outfielder Trent Oeltjen, left, is congratulated by hitting coach… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
Reporting from San Francisco — The Dodgers still can't hit and they still can't score. To avoid a three-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants, Clayton Kershaw had to strike out a season-high 12 batters over eight innings in a 1-0 victory at AT&T Park on Wednesday.
With the team's financial troubles preventing any significant additions to the payroll, the Dodgers exercised their only option to introduce change to their offense.
They fired their hitting coach.
Players were informed of Jeff Pentland's dismissal by Manager Don Mattingly in a team meeting before the game.
Pentland was replaced on an interim basis by Dave Hansen, who worked alongside Pentland as a hitting instructor. Mattingly said he and third base coach Tim Wallach would assist Hansen. There was no immediate change in the team's performance — the Dodgers were 0 for 13 with men in scoring position.
When Pentland was fired Tuesday night, the last-place Dodgers ranked eighth in the National League with a .250 batting average but were second to last in runs.
General Manager Ned Colletti, who assembled this offensively challenged team on a tight budget, said this wasn't a reflection of the talent on the roster.
"We don't lack for talent," Colletti said.
Mattingly didn't blame Pentland, saying, "He probably knows the swing as well as anybody I've ever been around."
So, why was Pentland let go?
Outfielder Andre Ethier said he felt the Dodgers made a scapegoat out of Pentland; Colletti said that wasn't the case.
"For me, it's a new voice," Colletti said.
Colletti added that the move was also made in part to shake up the players.
"You hope that somebody who sees a good man be let go and puts it on himself to say, 'I have to be better at what I do,' " Colletti said.
Pentland offered another theory. He said he didn't think the decision to fire him was made by Colletti or anyone else in baseball operations.
Asked whether he thought owner Frank McCourt made the call, Pentland replied, "Oh, yeah."
Colletti denied that, saying that he and Mattingly made the decision, not McCourt.
Colletti said he and Mattingly talked about making a change for as far back as a week ago.
"My hope was that after the [All-Star] break, we could have come out refreshed a little bit and become more productive," Colletti said.
They didn't. The Dodgers are 2-4 since the break, having scored 13 runs — more than three in a game only once.
Pentland, who spent three years as a hitting instructor with the team and was promoted to hitting coach this year, said he sensed trouble.
"The one area that people don't know a lot about is hitting, so we're the first to go," he said.
Pentland blamed the Dodgers' lack of run production on two shortcomings: "We didn't have a lot of power and we didn't have speed. It's hard to create runs when you don't have that."
But Pentland didn't fault Dodgers players for his removal.
"I have a lot of respect for all of them," he said. "They really busted their butts. We went out there and did what we had to do. They were tremendous workers."
Tony Gwynn Jr. said of the clubhouse atmosphere when the players were told of the popular coach's firing: "It was bad. It was down."
"It's unfair to lay the blame on one person," said Ethier, who added that he would ask Pentland to work with him in the off-season.
Matt Kemp said the move surprised him.
"As a player, when your hitting coach gets fired, you have to take the blame," Kemp said. "Pent doesn't go out there and hit for us. He was a good hitting coach. I feel bad that he lost his job on our behalf."
The Dodgers have fired hitting coaches in the middle of the season two other times in Colletti's tenure as general manager.
Eddie Murray was let go in and replaced by Bill Mueller in 2007. The Dodgers didn't reach the playoffs.
They had better results the next season, when they fired Mike Easler and added Mattingly. But Mattingly's arrival coincided with another move: the trade for Manny Ramirez.