Dodgers starting pitcher Chris Capuano reacts after teammate Adrian Gonzalez… (Harry How / Getty Images )
The Dodgers probably won't win the National League West this season. But they might have a shot at an Emmy for best soap opera.
Before the team opened a five-game homestand Friday at Dodger Stadium, the right fielder said the manager wasn't speaking to him, the slumping center fielder said his bum shoulder had nothing to do with his slow start, and the team president said the embattled manager's job was safe, but declined to say for how long.
And that was only the pregame show.
BOX SCORE: Cardinals 7, Dodgers 0
Because after that the listless Dodgers went out on the field and lost for the fifth time in seven games, bowing to the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-0.
Allen Craig and David Freese each had a double and a home run off starter Chris Capuano (1-3), who failed to get out of the sixth inning. Meanwhile, at the plate the Dodgers were shut out for the first time in six weeks, managing only three hits off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (7-1) and a trio of relievers — none of those hits coming from outfielders Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp.
Two days earlier Ethier had been the target of thinly veiled criticism from his manager, Don Mattingly, who called out his underperforming team for a lack competitiveness and mental toughness. Mattingly doubled down on those comments Friday.
"It's what I believe in, the way that the game should be played," said Mattingly, an American League MVP and team captain during his playing days with the Yankees. "The way the game of baseball should be played, the determination you're supposed to play with, the grit you're supposed to play with, the toughness you're supposed to play with. It's just respect.
"It's not public criticism as far as criticizing players, it's criticizing the way we're playing. Guys in that room, they know who they are. Guys who play the game right, they don't have any problem with anything I am saying. So I can't even come close to backing off things I said the other day. I feel exactly that way."
Ethier, who has tested Mattingly's patience in the past, said Friday afternoon that the manager hasn't spoken to him since his comments became public and said he would welcome such a meeting. However the manager insisted he had an "honest" 20-minute talk with Ethier on Wednesday.
"I don't think we need anything like that lingering around," Ethier said. "The words of the 'competing' part, that bothers me. I was disappointed and frustrated to hear that part.
"If that's the way he feels … I'm willing to hear it and address it and figure out a way to make it better."
Ethier certainly seemed to take the criticism to heart, though, hustling down the line on three groundouts Friday.
Meanwhile Kemp, who has averaged 29 homers over the last four seasons, remains stuck on two this spring.
"I was just working on some things. It's not my shoulder," said Kemp, who struck out twice Friday, giving him a team-leading 52 for the season.
Mattingly disagreed, saying Kemp is still feeling the effects of off-season surgery.
"He's not been in the medical reports as far as Matt having this issue," he said. "But just knowing the injury, the shoulder is still tight."
As for how tight Mattingly remains with management, that's open to interpretation.
"I expect Donnie to be around a long time," team President Stan Kasten said.
But he declined to give his manager a vote of confidence — something he said is often a kiss of death anyway.
"You know what the reaction is when anyone does that," he said. "I try not to do that. I try to be more direct and honest about it."