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Dodgers left wondering about a glaring offensive weakness

NEW YORK – Every Los Angeles commuter can tell you that three inflated tires are not enough to get the car from the front door to the office.

And so it is with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have much of the offense clicking, but one aspect still needs proper inflation.

So even though the Dodgers' offense is far better than it was during the first two months of the season, there remains an issue with producing against left-handed pitching. New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia is just the latest lefty to make life miserable for the Dodgers. He led the Yankees to a 3-0 victory Tuesday in the Bronx.

The Dodgers know the flaw and are trying to fix it. Talking about it hasn't improved the situation.

"It's just making a bigger deal out of it than it is," said Justin Turner, who had a sixth-inning single off Sabathia and went 1-for-4. "We know there are lefties in our division and we have to win games. Just to sit around and talk about it all the time isn't a solution to fix anything, so hopefully we don't have to spend too much time talking about it."

The veteran Sabathia might be in the midst of an up-and-down season, but he looked to be in control while holding the Dodgers to three hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Dodgers' left-hander issue is far from an unknown. And the problem is not just with starting pitchers.

The Yankees got a glimpse of it Monday in their 8-2 loss to L.A.. While Yanks right-hander Bryan Mitchell started the game, giving up six runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings, left-handed relievers Chasen Shreve, Richard Bleier and James Pazos gave up a combined one run on one hit over 5 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers are stacked with left-handed hitting options such as Joc Pederson, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Josh Reddick and Adrian Gonzalez. Yasmani Grandal is a switch hitter, but most of his damage has come from the left side.

And, in an interesting twist this season, the right-handed hitting Turner has been far better against right-handed pitching than left-handed. He entered play Tuesday batting .299 with a .920 OPS against right-handers and .193/.627 marks against lefties.

"I think that we have had spurts where we were OK," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But if we plan to do what we want to as a team, accomplish what we want to and go deep into the postseason, we have to be better against left-handed pitching."

An option like the righty-hitting Enrique Hernandez was key for the Dodgers against lefties last season, but he has hardly done the same damage this season in sporadic playing time. Yasiel Puig has produced about the same numbers against left-handers as right-handers, but overall, it has not been one of his best seasons.

The lefty issue is why Rob Segedin was called up from the minor leagues in early August, and why the club traded backup catcher A.J. Ellis for backup catcher Carlos Ruiz. Tuesday was a rare start behind the plate for Ruiz, who went 0-for-2.

Asked if a certain type of left-hander is a bigger problem, Gonzalez said there is no reason to be specific.

"It's everybody," he said. "Once in a while we'll have a good day, but for the most part it’s any lefty."

Hernandez and Segedin have helped the Dodgers get the best of San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner this season, and he's one of the best lefties in the game. So there is reason for hope. The Giants' ace is 0-2 against the Dodgers in three starts this season with a 5.63 ERA.

"We know we can do it," Gonzalez said. "I hope we do it when it counts. We're not going to look too much into it, other than the fact that we're pissed that we lost and we didn't score any runs today. But we're not going to look too much into those struggles until we don't do it when it counts."

First asked about the concern hitting lefties, then asked about the success against Bumgarner, an agitated Turner was quick to reply.

"I think that answers your first question, right?" Turner said. "It's not a lefty thing; we just have had a tough run the last couple of times we have faced them."

The numbers show the issue is more than a recent development, though. Roberts addressed the subject pregame and said the club's right-handed hitters are too anxious against lefties, swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. They have been less jumpy against right-handers, at least since the start of June, when the offense started to improve.

"Every time we get a left-hander, we feel good about it and are optimistic, but it has been a tough year against left-handed pitching," Roberts said afterward. "The numbers, obviously, as they say, don't lie. We have to look back at the video with C.C., but it seemed like he kept us at bay and off balance and we didn't get very many good swings against him. Regardless, we have to find a way to produce baserunners and ultimately runs."

The Dodgers know they will probably see Bumgarner two more times down the stretch. They figure to get other left-handed tests, as well, since division play resumes Thursday at Arizona.

"As we finish out the next 18 games, we're going to see some left-handed pitching, and rightfully so," Roberts said. "There has to be some point where we break through."