Torre losing patience with mistakes
Dodgers manager doesn't hold back when assessing late-inning gaffes by Martin, Kemp
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Joe Torre is running out of patience and the Dodgers' so-called "kids" are running out of chances.
Torre has always been one of the most patient managers in baseball, but on this night, there was no sugarcoating his postgame message.
The Dodgers basically gave away a game they should've won Wednesday night -- a 2-1 loss to the Angels -- with two inexcusable baserunning errors by Matt Kemp and Russell Martin in the top of the ninth inning.
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It was their sixth straight loss, and afterward Torre was as demonstrably upset as he has been during his three-year tenure in Los Angeles.
"You need more than ability to play this game," he said. "You need to be able to think, and we didn't think very well tonight.
"We continue to talk, continue to express how important it is to play the game on both sides of this thing. At this level, we shouldn't make mistakes like that. You gotta know the outs; you gotta know the situation; you gotta know when to take chances and when not to take chances. I'm pretty sure that it won't happen again, but one time is too much."
To their credit, both Kemp, who was picked off on second base with one out, and Martin, who was caught rounding second base to end the game before Reed Johnson could score on what would've been a tying RBI single by Jamey Carroll, admitted their mistakes after the game.
"I made a dumb play at the end of the game to cost us the game," Kemp said. "It's just one of those days. I have to come back tomorrow and make something happen."
"Now that you think about it, it's really just a dumb play," Martin said. "If I get on third base or I stay on second, I'm still in scoring position. It is an aggressive mistake, but it's probably the last time I make it."
Admitting and recognizing mistakes are the kinds of things players get praised for in their first couple of years at this level, not after the leadership and success or failure of the team has been entrusted to them.
Torre has tried to shield the Dodgers' young core from the pressure of those expectations for as long as he could. But on this night, he seemed to reach a turning point.
The time for accountability has arrived.
"I'm very patient with players, but I have no patience with mental mistakes because that's all part of your game preparation," he said. "Ability can only get you so far. You've got to be able to know how to use that ability. We've had some success here and guys have been around for a couple of years so you know, you're getting beyond that point where they're young players."
Replays of the game-ending play at second base seemed to show Martin did get back to the base ahead of the tag and should've been called safe. Torre and Martin disagreed with the call, but they both said it never should've come to that.
"I thought Russell was safe getting back to second, but you can't put yourself in peril like that," Torre said.
"Baserunning mistakes don't get much worse than making the last out of a game with the tying run about to score, you know?" Martin said. "You can't get much worse than that, unless it's the last out of the World Series, and then I couldn't live with myself."
However, he still maintained he wasn't tagged.
"I was still safe though," Martin said. "You can let the umpire know I think I was safe."
Torre was equally annoyed with Kemp, whom Fuentes picked off at second base with one out and Martin at the plate.
"We stated Fuentes has a move, and you've got to be careful [with] that spin move," Torre said. "That's why we have information."
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It was a marked departure from Torre's conciliatory tone toward Kemp after Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti criticized the young star's maturity and approach earlier this season.
"You need more than just the ability you're born with to play this game," Torre said. "You need to keep your head in the game and realize the other team's trying to beat you.
"It's not even about fighting to get a win. It's about fighting to win a pennant. You can't give games away. You lose enough of them as it is."
There is no easy way to move on from a loss like this except to drive home safely, go to bed and come back the next day for the next game.
If there is a bright side, it's that it's obvious to everyone involved that things need to change if the Dodgers are going to fulfill their enormous potential.
"Hopefully this gives us a little fire," Martin said when asked if there was anything to be taken away from such a foul night. "We can either keep our heads down, or keep our heads high and keep playing hard."
Torre said right-hander Chad Billingsley (groin) was on track to come off the disabled list and pitch Monday, but that he's always wary of pitchers coming off groin injuries. "Just from my experience, that's been the one injury for a pitcher that's probably the toughest to know for sure," Torre said. Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger (toe) will be activated from the disabled list to start Thursday's game against the Angels, but he may have a short leash both in the game, and with the Dodgers. "He's going to have to show us something," Torre said. "It isn't just winning or losing, I think it's what we see out there." Haeger is 0-4 with an 8.53 ERA this season. Right-hander Travis Schlichting will likely be optioned back to the minors to make room for Haeger. As expected, Chin-lung Hu was optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Rafael Furcal, who returned from the bereavement list.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.