Offense struggles without Manny

The Dodgers aren't expected to be without Manny Ramirez for any longer than the 15 days a team has to be without a player when he is put on the 15-day disabled list. But given the way things are going for the Dodgers these days, 15 days might be 15 too many.

In the three games Ramirez hasn't started because of the right-calf injury that finally landed him on the shelf Friday after he pulled up lame running out a base hit Thursday night in Cincinnati, the Dodgers have now scored a total of three runs -- including one in Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals before 23,859 at Nationals Ballpark.

This from a team that otherwise entered the day leading the majors in batting average (.311), runs (98) and on-base percentage.

That offensive drought without Ramirez is a bit misleading. First of all, there were two other games he didn't start earlier this season, for no other reason than that manager Joe Torre wanted to rest him, and the Dodgers scored 10 and five runs in those games. Second of all, they faced San Francisco stalwarts Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito in the other two games Ramirez didn't start, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Dodgers scored a total of two runs in those games.

But Friday night? The Dodgers were facing someone named Luis Atilano, who was making his major league debut for the Nationals. And Atilano basically shut them down. Their only run off him came on a bases-loaded groundout by A.J. Ellis in the fourth inning, and although it went in the books as an earned run, the Dodgers wouldn't have had the bases loaded if a throwing error by Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan hadn't allowed Ronnie Belliard to move to second and resulted in Atilano's being ordered to intentionally walk Blake DeWitt.

Beyond that, Atilano held the Ramirez-less Dodgers to five hits over six dazzling innings.

Oh, and Ramirez's replacement, Xavier Paul, who was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque earlier in the day, never arrived because of flight delays. So Ramirez's absence left the Dodgers short-handed not only figuratively but literally.

Torre told the reporters who were covering the game he wasn't sure if Ramirez will even go with the club to New York on Sunday night for an upcoming three-game series with the Mets, adding that the key to injuries such as the one Ramirez currently has is to give them time to rest and heal because if you don't, they become a season-long problem.

By the numbers

1 -- hit in his past 12 at-bats for veteran third baseman Casey Blake, who had struck out five times during that span. Blake was given the night off Friday because Torre said he "looked a little sluggish" on Thursday night in Cincinnati. Blake did pinch hit in the ninth inning but wasn't charged with an at-bat because he was hit by a pitch from Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.


The Dodgers' bullpen, which has been basically awful, doesn't appear to be getting any better.

Ramon Ortiz, who probably wouldn't even be around anymore if Jeff Weaver hadn't gotten hurt earlier this week, finished with a decent pitching line Friday night, giving up a run and one hit over 2 2/3 innings behind Charlie Haeger, but it belied his actual performance. Ortiz faced 11 batters and walked four of them, including three in a row to start the eighth inning.

The loss went to Haeger, so the bullpen's collective record remained 2-6, but the ERA climbed to a ghastly 6.17, with more walks (36) than strikeouts (33). As for Ortiz individually, his ERA was so bad coming in that he actually shaved it by more than a run with this performance, from 8.00 to 6.94. But again, numbers didn't tell the story.

On the positive side for Ortiz, he did eat up the rest of the game after relieving Haeger with one out in the sixth inning, saving Torre from having to use anyone else out of a bullpen that is already overworked at a point when the Dodgers still won't have another off-day until a week from Monday.

Quote of the day

"Believe me, when Manny is up, I hope for two things: I hope he hits a home run or he is on third with less than two outs. Because that might be the most difficult player to navigate around the bases because you don't know when he is running hard, you don't know what gait he is going to be in, you don't know what his mood is. ... There are times where I think he has a chance of scoring, and then he is rounding third, you send him, and all of a sudden, something happens between third and home and he is out by five, six feet. So that is my biggest dilemma, and believe me, I lay awake at night saying he is on second in the eighth inning, the score is tied, you got guys in the outfield that throw decent and even though they have to go right or left, you know, you want to send him [because] you're trying to win the ballgame, but he is tough to get around there." -- Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa, in an interview Friday with Sirius/XM radio, on the challenges of making decisions when Ramirez is the baserunner.

Looking ahead

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 3.18) is coming off his strongest performance of the season on Sunday against the Giants, when he gave up only one run over seven innings. Right-hander Craig Stammen (1-0, 8.16) goes for the Nationals, but his ERA is a bit misleading and is mostly the result of a single bad outing on April 14 at Philadelphia when he was torched for seven runs in 1 1/3 innings. He is coming off a masterful effort against Colorado on Monday in which he gave up two runs and five hits over eight innings.

Tony Jackson, who reported from Glendale, Ariz., covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.