HOUSTON -- Clayton Kershaw expressed what Los Angeles Dodgers fans must be longing to hear after watching their team meander its way through this road trip to nowhere, always a key pitch or a key hit from the win that could set them straight.
Tired of dangling the National League West lead in the San Francisco Giants' faces, the Dodgers' best player signaled that a change of attitude might not hurt. The Dodgers lost their fifth straight game Sunday, 3-2 to the Houston Astros in 10 innings. The Dodgers have yet to lose a game by more than three runs on this winless trip, but their offense has practically dried up and their bullpen hasn’t given the faintest sign it can be relied upon.
“I hope we’re panicking a little bit,” Kershaw said. “I think panic’s a good thing to a certain extent. It’s August whatever-it-is, and we’ve got five weeks or whatever it is, too. There needs to be a sense of urgency. Maybe that’s better to say it than panic, but I feel like we’ve got to start playing like that.”
What’s scarier still is the Dodgers managed to carry their slump through the practically impassable barrier: Zack Greinke and Kershaw. Those guys were borderline dominant, too. Greinke allowed just three hits Saturday. Kershaw allowed one run and struck out 10 over eight innings Sunday.
“I do look at it as missed opportunities when those guys pitch and you can’t get it done,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The Dodgers found a way to lose both games, so here they stand, trying to plug the holes in their leaking division lead, unaware when their hitters will figure out new ways to score or their relievers will find ways to get key outs. They're stuck in their longest losing streak in two years and three months.
The road trip has cast an unfavorable light on the Dodgers’ ability to score runs outside the batter's box. The Oakland Athletics put their running game to use against the Dodgers to win two games up there and the Astros' athleticism and aggressiveness on the bases was a big part of this three-game sweep. Carlos Correa stole second to set up the tying run in the ninth, when he scored on Marwin Gonzalez’s single to right.
The Dodgers continued their plodding ways, waiting for home runs that never arrive. They did add a dose of aggression, focus and effort to their base running when they traded for Chase Utley. He scored one of the Dodgers’ only runs, legging out a double, advancing on a wild pitch and scoring on a sacrifice fly. Sometimes, it feels like the Dodgers go a month without manufacturing a run.
Asked why he doesn’t try to generate more action on the bases, Mattingly pointed out, again, that he doesn’t have the team speed, then added this true but unflattering comment about the state of his offense: “You’ve got to get on base to do it.”
Kershaw looked like he was trying to will this losing streak to end. He fought hard in the seventh inning, pitching around a leadoff double and around the fact that he fell behind two batters 3-and-0. He struck out the side and then breezed through the eighth. That got the Dodgers where they need to be to win games: to Kenley Jansen, who has been largely automatic.
But the stolen base hurt and Jansen blew his first save in two and a half months.
“I trust Kenley. He’s done it for a long time for me,” Kershaw said. “Happens every once in a while, but I trust Kenley for sure.”