Baseball / Sports

Dodgers flat again, lose series to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- It's not the kind of anniversary the Dodgers want to celebrate. But maybe Don Mattingly should mark the occasion with a reprise performance.

It was a year ago Friday that Mattingly (on the verge of being fired) called his team out, essentially saying they were far too content to rest on their ample paychecks while languishing near the bottom of the standings.

Well -- if the shoe fits ...

Looking much like that same comfortable band of underachievers from a year ago, the Dodgers lost, 5-3, to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon when Eric Chavez's two-run home run off Dan Haren broke a tie in the fifth inning.

The win gave the Diamondbacks their first series victory in four tries against the Dodgers. After winning eight of their first nine head-to-head meetings, the Dodgers were outscored, 23-10, in back-to-back losses Saturday and Sunday.

The Dodgers have lost six of their past eight series overall, dropped to one game over .500 and fell a season-high five games out in the NL West.

"We need to play better," Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said, offering little insight in a series of short, clipped answers delivered in a clubhouse quiet enough to hear a money clip drop.

"Different reasons every time (for the inability to win series). We've just got to play better baseball."

All spring, the Dodgers talked about doing that out of the gate this season and not putting themselves in position to need a historic run -- say, 42 wins in 50 games -- to save their season. Inaction is speaking louder than words.

"I'm not really worried about a run. I'm really worried about day to day," Mattingly said Sunday. "Until we can grind out wins then we're in trouble. I think you have to be ready to play every day, play with some sense of urgency that every game is going to matter, every game counts and you don't have time to wait."

Asked if he felt that was lacking in his team, Mattingly said he does not.

"Again, we've got to go out and play," he said. "We've got to perform. We've got to do what we need to do to win that day."

Better defense and sustained offense were needed Sunday and they got neither.

A poor read by Yasiel Puig in right field and a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez were the latest examples of poor defense from the Dodgers. But home runs by Ramirez and Gonzalez made it a 3-3 game into the bottom of the fifth inning.

That's when Chavez brought his former teammate to his knees � Haren's dramatic reaction to a poorly located fastball that Chavez turned into the decisive home run.

"He had pulled a few cutters foul. I was trying to go in with a fastball," Haren said of the seven-pitch at-bat by his former Oakland A's teammate. "I was trying to go up and in but it was just kind of middle-up. Probably not the best pitch there. I always want to get beat with one of my better pitches -- a cutter or split at that point. But I have to give him credit too. He put together a good at-bat."

The Dodgers didn't put together much of anything after Gonzalez's third-inning home run. They had just four more hits over the final six innings and just one real scoring threat.

They loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth but Matt Kemp lined out to the second baseman. The Dodgers are a major-league worst 3 for 31 with the bases loaded this season -- and 29 for 168 (.173) since the start of the 2013 season.

That is an oddly lopsided stat that could be telling or not -- like so much about the Dodgers these days.

"I don't have the answer, really," Haren said when asked for his theory to explain the Dodgers' underachievement. "I think we're so talented that sometimes maybe we expect the talent to just take over. That being said, we really haven't hit our stride yet. We haven't put several games together that were just real clean.

"But we're barely a quarter of the way into the season. There's a long way to go. We're definitely not buried. ... We could be in a lot worse shape."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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