LOS ANGELES -- You can hide a lot of things behind a mountain range, like an entire baseball team’s offensive woes.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers traveled to the Front Range to face the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field last weekend, the perception when they came home was that whatever had ailed the bats before a visit to the mile-high city of Denver was left gasping for breath in the thin air.
Now that the Dodgers are home, that stagnant offense has returned.
In losing their third consecutive game against the Miami Marlins this week, things have only gotten worse each day for the Dodgers. They have scored just five runs in three games against a team that not only entered the series with a record under .500, but are still under the break-even point at 9-11.
The Dodgers lost Wednesday’s game 2-0 against Marlins pitcher Justin Nicolino, who was making his 2016 debut. That defeat came after a 6-3 loss Tuesday and a 3-2 defeat Monday.
“You could see guys pressing a little bit,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You could see some hard contact out there, but when (hits) aren’t falling, you start looking at your last three, four games. Some guys are looking at their average and not getting hits. When I feel like you need to get a hit, it gets tougher. I think guys are coming out of the strike zone a little bit more than they used to.”
The Dodgers did score 21 runs in three games of their previous series at Colorado, 12 in Sunday’s game alone. But in the previous series at Atlanta, the offense looked more like it has this week against the Marlins. The Dodgers did win 2 of 3 against the Braves, but they scored just eight runs in that series.
The limited offense actually goes back to the final two games of the last homestand, when the Dodgers scored three runs in each of the last two games of a series against the San Francisco Giants, splitting those contests.
“Sometimes we forget there is another major league team across the way doing everything they can to get us out,” A.J. Ellis said when asked what is wrong with the offense. “They’ve thrown the ball extremely well this series. I think we have all been impressed with the amount of power arms they have, especially coming out their bullpen. It’s something we have to combat and come back and salvage (a game) in the series.”
The task doesn’t get any easier in the series finale Thursday, as the Marlins will send Jose Fernandez to the mound. Wednesday's victory gave the Marlins their first series win at Dodger Stadium since 2010.
The Dodgers remain in first place in the National League West, despite their season-long three-game losing streak, but at 12-10, they are just a half-game better than the Giants.
Like the ever-changing lineup, all facets of the Dodgers' game have been a mixed bag as well. If the starters aren’t giving the pitching staff enough length, then the bullpen is not pulling its weight. Now the offense is adrift at sea against the Marlins.
“I think we’re at 22 games into this thing,” Ellis said. “These things ebb and flow. Coming off the highs of a weekend in Colorado, especially Sunday, that win, it would be nice to have some carryover into this week, but this Marlins team got hot (last weekend) in San Francisco and they have their guys swinging the bats well.”
As the Dodgers look for the same flow from their offense, Roberts has been shaking up the lineup, and mixing and matching the pieces of his roster. Every position player on the Dodgers’ roster has started at least once in this series, but this has been far from a situation in which everybody has been able to contribute together.
Roberts admitted there is a fine line between keeping the entire roster fresh and leaving his core starters in for long stretches to get them locked in to opposing pitching.
“There is a fine line certainly, but I think that there is that balance,” Roberts said. “Each day is different, and for me, it’s just more of me being very aware of giving guys too many days off in a row to kind of keep them fresh. I don’t think there is a player in there that would say ‘because I had a day off here, I’m not ready to go the next day.’”