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Dodgers players get the point of criticism

Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez have Manager Don Mattingly's back, saying the team needs to focus on the fundamentals and little things.

May 25, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a solo home run in the fifth inning of the Dodgers' 5-3 victory over St. Louis, said that a roster full of high-priced All-Stars doesn't guarantee a pennant.
Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a solo home run in the fifth inning of the Dodgers'… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Before coming to the Dodgers last summer, infielder Nick Punto played for Ron Gardenhire and Tony La Russa, two managers famous for demanding accountability. So he had no problem understanding the larger message in Don Mattingly's recent criticism of the team's play.

"I know where the manager's coming from," said Punto, who had three hits and a walk, scoring twice in Saturday's 5-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. "We're not playing up to our capabilities. We're not doing the little things. It's a combination of all us. We have to play better."

And the blame for that, Punto said, doesn't belong in the manager's office or the front office.

"It's not the manager. He's easy-going, it's a great atmosphere," he said. "The bottom line is we need to get it together. Ownership did an amazing job putting this team together.

"You have to fight to win every night. No matter how talented you are, you have to fight."

Adrian Gonzalez also has Mattingly's back, arguing that a roster full of high-priced All-Stars doesn't guarantee a pennant.

"We had Phil Jackson come in and talk to us in spring training. The one thing he said is that when you have a team with a lot of talent, you have to play fundamentals," said Gonzalez, who had three hits and three runs batted in Saturday. "[If] you can't play fundamentals, the big things won't happen because everybody tries to pick up the other guy.

"When you try to pick up the other guy, it's not, 'Let me just have fun,' or, 'Let me just relax'; it's, 'I have to do this,' or 'I have to do that' and that makes it harder."

No relief in sight

No bullpen has lost more games than the Dodgers' 13 and only six big league teams entered the weekend with a higher bullpen earned-run average than the Dodgers' 4.35. And that was before Ronald Belisario blew a two-run lead in the sixth inning Saturday.

That's a far cry from last season, when Dodgers relievers won 30 games and had an ERA more than a run lower. Still Mattingly is confident his relievers can get back to where they were in 2012.

"I still think that's going to work itself out," he said. "All those guys have thrown the ball good. We've just been inconsistent."

And as if to prove that point, after Belisario's meltdown a trio of relievers held St. Louis scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings with Brandon League earning the save.

"At the end of the year last year, if we got to the seventh with the lead you felt like, 'OK, we got this. We're going to win this game,' " Mattingly said. "It hasn't been that scenario yet. But I feel like they're going to get back to that."

Short hops

Dee Gordon snapped a 0-for-25 slump with a line single to left in the fourth. ... Jerry Hairston Jr. played in his second minor league rehab game in as many nights Saturday,  starting in left field for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. If there are no setbacks, he is expected to rejoin the Dodgers this week. ... Left-hander Scott Elbert pitched a perfect inning in relief for double-A Chattanooga, striking out one while throwing 11 pitches, eight for strikes.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

twitter.com/kbaxter11

Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

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