The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the kind of hitting slump that can swallow up a season.
Ian Kennedy was the latest pitcher to dominate the Dodgers in a 1-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Tuesday that cost them another key opportunity to make up ground. The Dodgers have lost three of four games on this crucial road trip to virtually tumble out of the NL West race and imperil their wild-card hopes.
The Dodgers have gone 6-11 versus Arizona this season with just one game left in the season series.
Kershaw, continued. One serious worry was answered Tuesday when Clayton Kershaw pitched seven innings and gave up just three hits (and an unearned run). Kershaw had been scratched from Sunday's start in San Francisco because of a sore hip. He has also been dealing with a painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis. If he can pitch with those things and be as effective as he was Tuesday, the Dodgers are lucky. The only problem is they're not taking advantage of his stalwart efforts.
Stopping power. With the possible exception of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers are playing superb defense most nights. The Diamondbacks would have added a key extra run in the seventh, but Matt Kemp made an on-the-fly throw from center field -- and A.J. Ellis blocked the plate and applied a quick tag -- to get Miguel Montero at the plate. With a faster runner or different center fielder and catcher, it would have been an easy sacrifice fly.
Fine line. A few inches here or there can be decisive in a pennant race. The Dodgers nearly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning after Andre Ethier doubled to left field and Luis Cruz sent a deep drive to left. But Jason Kubel, not the most athletic outfielder in the league, timed his jump well and snagged Cruz's drive before it could clear the wall. Ethier and Cruz are two of the only Dodgers hitters showing much life lately.
Short at short. You wonder why the Dodgers are using Ramirez at shortstop and Cruz at third when the latter clearly is the better fielder. Perhaps it's to satisfy Ramirez's request, after grumbling about giving up his position for Jose Reyes in Miami. The Dodgers might want to consider shifting Dee Gordon or Cruz to shortstop and using Ramirez at third next year, because he clearly is subpar at one of the most important positions. It was his throwing error that led to Arizona's lone run off Kershaw.
Nothing doing. The Dodgers were hoping Adrian Gonzalez would excel in this final stretch of decisive games, but instead he has been in one of his deeper slumps this season. He admitted as much in San Francisco after one of his few important hits lately. It would be one thing if Kemp were tearing the cover off the ball, but he's not. Combined with a soft stretch for Kemp, Gonzalez's inactivity -- 2-for-15 on the trip -- has been crushing.
More slumping. The reason the Dodgers are in this massive slump is that virtually every key hitter in their lineup is struggling. In addition to his fielding issues, Ramirez hasn't been driving runs as he was earlier. In his last seven games, he's 5-for-28 (.179) with just three RBIs. It looks as if he's trying to hit a home run with every swing, but that's not what the Dodgers need. They need gritty at-bats that lead to base runners.