- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
ST. LOUIS -- This just in. In addition to that whole Milton Bradley thing, the Dodgers are now also demanding that Fox erase all tapes of this division series against the Cardinals.
What a disaster. The Dodgers have been in St. Louis since Sunday night for their first postseason series in eight years, and given the way things went in the first two games -- two 8-3 losses and another skirmish with Bradley -- they might as well pass on Game 3 in Los Angeles to stay here for Friday's presidential debate between George Bush and John Kerry.
"Mr. President, assuming you were Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and considering what you know now, would you have made the same decision he did by leaving starter Jeff Weaver in so long to face Mike Matheny?
"And Mr. Kerry, based on his actions of the past two weeks, do you think Milton Bradley needs to be removed from the Dodgers outfield?"
St. Louis routed Los Angeles in Game 1 and, aside from three solo homers, Thursday was another miserable game for the Dodgers. Weaver gave up eight hits, allowed six runs, walked two batters, hit two more, threw a wild pitch and made a throwing error that allowed a runner to score. All in less than five innings of the 8-3 loss.
Not that his teammates helped him out much. First baseman Shawn Green should have caught Weaver's errant pickoff throw in a three-run second. Second baseman Alex Cora let a double-play grounder eat him up to feed a decisive three-run fifth. Shortstop Cesar Izturis double-clutched on a grounder that gave Reggie Sanders an infield single.
Dodgers hitters walked seven times, including six times in the first four innings, but to failed to score a single one of those runners. St. Louis walked the bases loaded with the game tied in the fourth, and Los Angeles failed again to make the Cardinals pay. "I think that was the big key to the game," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said.
The thing is, Los Angeles would have been in each game had it been able to execute when it matters most. The Cardinals certainly have. All eight runs St. Louis scored in Game 2 were with two out, as were five of the eight they scored in Game 1.
"That's the difference in the series," Weaver said. "They're doing the little things to make things happen."
The defeat extended the Dodgers' postseason losing streak to eight games. They haven't won a postseason game since Orel Hershiser beat Oakland in Game 5 of the 1988 World Series. They haven't held more than a one-run lead -- or led for more than three innings in any of the games. They've been behind in 51 of the 73 innings they've played.
Sheesh, they're almost at the stage where someone is going to write a book about "The Curse of Darryl Strawberry" or "The Curse of Rupert Murdoch" or "The Curse of Kevin Brown" or any of the other crosses Los Angeles has borne in the past 16 years.
In truth, the only curses Los Angeles is dealing with these days are the ones shouted by Bradley, this year's runaway favorite to win the coveted Albert Belle Award. Traded away by Cleveland in spring training due to attitude problems, the Angriest Man in Baseball was suspended the final week of the regular season for tossing a bottle of water at hecklers. During Wednesday's workout, he got into it with Los Angeles Times reporter Jason Reid, calling the writer an "Uncle Tom" for daring to question the outfielder about the fan reaction he received in Game 1.
You would be seeing videotape of the altercation on a continuous loop had the local news crew that filmed it not backed down and erased it at the demand of the Dodgers PR director. It was not one of broadcast journalism's most illustrious moments -- the reporter who handed over the tape will probably be doing the morning traffic report next week. In Dubuque.
Now, players yelling at reporters is a more established part of the game than the old Vicks-in-his-jockstrap gag, so Bradley doesn't deserve any additional league punishment (both the Dodgers and the Times say they want to work it out among themselves). But the last thing the Dodgers needed while facing the team with more wins than anyone else and the most imposing lineup since the peak of NBC's "Must See Thursday" was an off-field distraction. It's tough enough dealing with Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker without wondering whether your right fielder is going to slam a pitch into the bleachers -- or just go into the bleachers.
The St. Louis Big Four accounted for four home runs and seven runs in Game 1, but the Dodgers pretty much handled them in Game 2 (2-for-15). The problem was the other guys, including Matheny, who knocked in four runs. Which just goes to show you how well-rounded the league's best offense is -- the longest ball of the evening was reliever Dan Haren's drive to the warning track in center while the production included two infield singles and five two-out hits.
"You don't want to see them score anytime but with two outs? That's a situation when you can keep it under control but we let the floodgates open," closer Eric Gagne said. "It's been a little bit of everything -- our defense, their timely hitting, our pitching."
Gagne is the Dodgers best pitcher but he has yet to pitch a meaningful inning (he threw a scoreless eighth just to get some work Thursday). Which is not to say that there wasn't a moment that positively cried out for a reliever to come in and shut down a rally. That was with two out in the fifth, Los Angeles trailing 4-3, runners at second and third, Weaver struggling and Matheny batting. If the Dodgers could have gotten out of the inning there, it still would have been close. Instead, Weaver gave up a single to Matheny that made it 6-3.
"That can be demoralizing," St. Louis starter Jason Marquis said, "especially when you're going against an offense as potent as ours."
Whether they were demoralized or not, the Dodgers went down without a whimper, reaching base only three times after reliever Cal Eldred, pitching in the first postseason game of his 15-year career -- wriggled out of that bases-loaded jam in the fourth.
Naturally, the Dodgers talked about returning to Los Angeles and rallying as they have so many times this season, but no amount of brave talk, spin or press bullying can alter the cold, hard truth. There is no debate in St. Louis on this point -- they've had it.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
The Dodgers say the Cardinals are doing the "little things" to win. That spells big trouble for L.A., writes Jim Caple.