CINCINNATI -- The Los Angeles Dodgers do not know when Hanley Ramirez might play again. Maybe Saturday. Maybe not. Maybe he goes on the disabled list.
He could not play Thursday, one day after he got a cortisone injection to combat inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He could not even pinch-hit, exposing the vulnerability of the Dodgers' roster amid injuries and turning one inning into a festival of second-guessing.
They lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 4-1, and now they come home. The Dodgers are two games over .500, with the highest payroll in sports history, and they have the worst home record of any National League team except the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"People expect us to win every game," said pitcher Zack Greinke. "People expect us to win 10 games in a row."
That is what it might take to win the NL West, a challenge even at full strength. The Dodgers are 81/2 games back of the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers expect to activate catcher A.J. Ellis on Friday, but outfielder Carl Crawford and third baseman Juan Uribe remain on the disabled list, and Ramirez's status is uncertain.
Skip Schumaker, who played for the Dodgers last season and had two hits for the Reds on Thursday, offered a pointed assessment of his old team after the game.
"That lineup is very good," Schumaker told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "When certain guys want to play, it's even better."
The lineup Thursday included Tim Federowicz batting seventh and Miguel Rojas batting eighth. Federowicz is batting .131. Rojas is a career minor leaguer. Neither would be in the major leagues except for injuries.
In the seventh inning, the Dodgers trailed, 2-1, with runners on first and third and none out. The bottom of the order was not assured of coming up again, so this would be the inning for manager Don Mattingly to make his moves.
He did not bat for Federowicz, even with his other catcher, Drew Butera. Mattingly said he did not want to use Butera unless Federowicz got hurt, to avoid the possibility of Butera getting injured with Federowicz already out of the game.
"Then I'm going to end up catching (pitcher Clayton) Kershaw," Mattingly said.
Federowicz hit a shallow fly ball, too shallow for Matt Kemp to try to score from third base. That brought up Rojas. In addition to Butera, Mattingly had Chone Figgins, Jamie Romak and Scott Van Slyke on the bench.
Rojas can bunt -- he had 13 sacrifice bunts last season -- but Mattingly did not call a squeeze. He also did not use Van Slyke, a better bet for a fly ball. Mattingly let Rojas hit, noting he had one of the Dodgers' six hits to that point.
Rojas grounded out. Then Mattingly used Van Slyke for Greinke, who had thrown only 72 pitches. Van Slyke struck out.
"You really don't want to take Zack out there," Mattingly said. "You feel like you're forced to."
The Dodgers did not score, and reliever Brandon League gave up two more runs. In the ninth inning, Mattingly tried career minor leaguer Romak against Aroldis Chapman, and Romak struck out, overwhelmed by the 101-mph fastball.
The Dodgers dropped to 35-33, losing games started by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Greinke to end their trip. Greinke suggested the criticism might be overblown, considering the Dodgers are chasing the hottest team in baseball, and still are a half-game out of a wild-card spot.
"We'll go on a streak," Greinke said. "We'll probably go on another bad streak."
He meant that a good streak would come, and another bad streak probably would come too. The latter might well come at home, since the Dodgers have yet to have a winning homestand this season.
"You don't really do anything differently at home than you do on the road," Mattingly said. "It's hard to understand why you would not be as good at home. Guys traditionally have always played better at home."
Mattingly said any theories as to why would be "just guesses," then offered a startling one -- the new home clubhouse, part of the $150 million Guggenheim Baseball has invested into Dodger Stadium upgrades, might be too grand.
"At home, it's so big now," he said. "There's a quiet room. There's a locker room. There's a weight room. You can go back in the sauna.
"We're not quite all in one room."
All for one, in some room, sooner or later.
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