NEW YORK -- There is no denying the Dodgers are reeling. A three-game wipeout at the hands of the surging New York Mets was made complete in a 7-3 defeat before 29,724 at Citi Field on Wednesday that extended their losing streak to four games.
And now there is controversy between the general manager and the center fielder with different takes on whether the Dodgers are a house divided.
Ned Colletti and Matt Kemp spoke briefly after the game about comments Colletti had made to a Los Angeles radio station the previous day in which he said Kemp's defense and baserunning were below average and wondered aloud whether Kemp might be too comfortable now that he has a new two-year, $10.95 million contract.
Colletti's comments came in response to a direct question from 790 KABC's Peter Tilden during Colletti's regular weekly appearance on Tilden's show Tuesday.
"I told him I didn't single him out, the same thing I told [the media] earlier," Colletti said after speaking with Kemp. "We had a five-minute conversation."
Asked if it was a two-way conversation, Colletti said it was. Asked if everything was fine between him and Kemp, Colletti simply said, "It's fine with me."
Kemp, who has been noticeably prickly with the media all season, declined to discuss his conversation with Colletti or even to acknowledge that it took place.
"I ain't got nothing to say about that," he said.
Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, reacted with shock on Wednesday to Colletti's comments.
"When it comes time for Matt to arbitrate two years from now, we're going to look at that situation and do what's best for Matt," he said on The Mason and Ireland Show on 710 ESPN Los Angeles. "When it comes time for Matt to be a free agent three years from now, we're going to look at that situation in the same way as I would with Chad Billingsley, my other client on that ballclub.
Stewart was a right-handed pitcher for 16 years in the majors and was known for his intimidating presence on the mound.
"This kind of thing in all the years I've been in baseball has never happened with any general manager on any team I've ever played on where you single out a player and you hold him accountable for the outcome of what 24 other players are doing as well," Stewart said. "There are 25 players on a team."
Pressed on the matter, Kemp spoke only cryptically.
"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "It's all good. People can say what they want to say. I just work hard and try to help this team win."
That, of course, is something the Dodgers haven't done in a while, and it's tough to imagine that the usual monotony of a six-hour, cross-country flight back to Los Angeles wasn't made even worse given the way things are going on the field. But if nothing else, at least the Dodgers had a lot of time for soul-searching before beginning a four-game series with Pittsburgh on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
As for the game itself, it was more of the same. The Dodgers were handcuffed all day by a previously ineffective John Maine and a rock-solid Mets bullpen that has been critical to what is now a seven-game winning streak. The Dodgers, who clearly are missing the injured Manny Ramirez more than they let on, got only five hits and struck out 13 times, including three each by Andre Ethier and James Loney, and fell to 8-13 for the season.
Lost in the shuffle
John Ely's major league debut was a mostly impressive one. On a cold, windy afternoon when the field was littered with trash, the promising right-hander went six innings and gave up five runs and six hits, a line that might have been better if not for a critical mental mistake he made in the Mets' four-run second.
With the game still scoreless, the Mets had runners on the corners with none out. Jeff Francoeur hit a one-hopper back toward the mound, and Ely scooped it up quickly with plenty of time to turn the double play if he conceded the run. But Ely looked David Wright back to third for a split second too long to allow him any chance of getting a double play and a split second too short to deter Wright from breaking to the plate.
The immediate result was that Ely got only the force at second and Wright scored anyway. The eventual result was that the Mets went on to score three more runs, all with two outs, in an inning that probably would have turned out much differently had Ely been thinking double play from the start.
"My first time out, I just tried to focus on keeping the ball down and throwing strikes," Ely said. "I probably should have made a couple of different decisions in that second inning, but you kind of have to go with the flow and get over it and move on to the next thing."
Ely said he had been given no indication how long his initial big league stay might be -- his contract was officially purchased from Triple-A Albuquerque just before game time -- but he did fly back to Los Angeles with the team. The Dodgers won't necessarily need a fifth starter until May 8 against Colorado. Although the pitcher Ely replaced, right-hander Vicente Padilla, is eligible to return from the disabled list that day, it appears unlikely he will come back that quickly.
Ely gave up another run in the third, then retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced, giving up only a one-out single to Wright in the fifth.
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal underwent an MRI on his left hamstring that showed a mild strain. He will be examined by Neal ElAttrache, the team doctor, on Thursday in Los Angeles and isn't expected to return to the starting lineup for at least a few more days. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said that when Furcal is ready to play, he probably will come off the bench for a couple of games before returning to the lineup.
By the numbers
1: total RBIs for the tandem of Kemp and Ethier in the six games since Manny Ramirez was put on the 15-day disabled list last Friday. That is yet another indication that Ramirez remains a critical piece for the Dodgers, not only for what he himself brings but also for the way he lengthens the lineup and forces opposing pitchers to pitch differently to the hitters above and below him.
Quote of the day
"He has a chance to be the best Dodger in the history of the franchise. He has the ability to do that." -- Colletti, following his brief conversation with Kemp after the game.
The Dodgers kick off a 10-game stand at Dodger Stadium, where they are 4-2 for the season and where they have played only six of their first 21 games. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has given up three earned runs over 13 innings while striking out 15 batters in his past two starts, goes for the Dodgers. Brian Burres (0-1, 9.31), another lefty who has been working out of the Pirates' bullpen, will make his first start since April 12.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.