- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Despite the buzz that was already circulating around Dodger Stadium several hours before Friday night's game, it wasn't entirely clear whether the Los Angeles Dodgers were seriously interested in acquiring Adam Dunn, nor was it entirely clear whether the Dodgers had put in a waiver claim on the slugging first baseman from the Washington Nationals.
Once the game started, though, there was one fact about Dunn that became crystal clear.
By the fourth inning, when Dunn already had slammed a pair of three-run homers off Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were well on their way to another mind-numbing loss -- 6-3 to the Nationals in front of 39,153 -- there was no doubt whatsoever that Dunn could be a boon to a Dodgers lineup that has spent most of the second half hitting nothing but the skids.
With two swings of the bat -- a 460-foot drive down the right-field line in the first inning that crossed just to the fair side of the foul pole and landed in the loge level, and another shot up the line in the fourth that might have gone just as far if it hadn't actually hit the foul pole -- Dunn drove in more runs than the Dodgers have scored in all but one of their 22 games since the All-Star break.
And more runs than the Dodgers seem capable of scoring at a time when they are without Rafael Furcal for at least two more days, without Russell Martin probably for the rest of the season and without Manny Ramirez for a period of time no one can possibly predict.
Interest is one thing, but for the Dodgers (56-54) to actually acquire Dunn, a lot of things have to fall into place.
First, Dunn has to either clear waivers -- he reportedly was waived late Tuesday, meaning his 72 hours would have passed just before game time Friday -- or, if the Dodgers did actually put in a claim on him, their won-loss record has to be the worst among all the teams that claimed him. The second scenario is actually more favorable to the Dodgers, because if no claim was put on Dunn by any team, the Nationals can trade him anywhere by Aug. 31. If Dunn doesn't clear waivers, the Nationals almost certainly will pull him off waivers because they aren't going to give him up for nothing.
Even in that case, they can still trade him by Aug. 31, but -- and this is the important part -- only to the team with the worst record among claiming teams, although National League teams get priority over American League teams because Dunn is an NL player.
It's enough to give you a headache if you spend too much time thinking about it. And the one thing Dunn doesn't want to do is give himself a headache.
"I haven't heard anything on anything about [the Dodgers]," he said after the game. "I hate to play the speculation game. It seems like from July 1 every year, I'm playing the speculation game, and I don't like doing that."
Dunn is in the final season of the two-year, $20 million contract he signed with the Nationals before last season, when their general manager was the same one he had played under for his first two years in the majors in Cincinnati. Jim Bowden didn't stick around long after signing Dunn, resigning before the end of spring training. Nevertheless, Dunn has found a comfortable fit in Washington, where he has now hit 68 homers and driven in 182 runs since the start of last year.
His preference is to play out the season there and re-sign with the Nationals.
"Yeah, but again, it's out of my control, pretty much," he said. "I'm just going to play as hard as I can for however long I'm here."
The other part of this is that if the Dodgers don't right the ship quickly, it might be too late to matter. They are still mired in fourth place in the NL West, eight games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres, and they are seven back in the wild-card race, with four teams ahead of them and only 52 games left on their schedule.
Thus, even if the Dodgers do somehow find themselves in a position to acquire Dunn in the next few days, the question might have to be asked whether it's worth it to add him for a playoff bid that is starting to look like a long shot, especially if the Nationals demand a package of valued prospects in return.
By the numbers
.636: career average (7-for-11), with three home runs and seven RBIs, for Dunn against Kershaw. Even more remarkable is that when Dunn came to the plate against Kershaw one final time in the fifth inning, Kershaw struck him out for only the second time in those 11 at-bats, an astonishingly low figure considering Dunn once held the all-time single-season strikeout record for two years before that dubious mark was broken by Arizona's Mark Reynolds in 2008.
Dodgers reliever Ramon Troncoso -- who was a mainstay in the team's bullpen over the past couple of seasons but was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on July 3 -- made his first appearance since being recalled Tuesday. He pitched around a one-out single by Ivan Rodriguez to post a scoreless eighth, then left after intentionally walking Dunn with two outs in the ninth. Troncoso gave up just two singles and struck out two batters.
Dodgers first-base coach Mariano Duncan was sidelined Friday night while he rested his ailing back, but he is expected to return to the box Saturday night against the Nationals. Hitting instructor Jeff Pentland filled in for Duncan at first base.
Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-10, 3.70) will be facing the Nationals for only the second time in his career. He held them to two unearned runs and four hits over six innings last Sept. 22 in a 14-2 Dodgers victory at Nationals Park. With Ramirez disabled and rehabilitating in Arizona, Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez (8-7, 3.12) will be the only former World Series MVP in the house. He is just 9-15 in his career against the Dodgers, with a 4.86 ERA, and he has given up 225 hits in 198 innings during those 31 starts.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.