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NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-05-13


NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-05-13
Can we set Manny Ramirez aside for just a second? Because while the rest of Baseball looks for the elusive outfielder, who hasn't been seen in public since his suspension a week ago, there are a few other questions surrounding the Dodgers .

At the top of that list is "How good are they?" Based on the early results, the answer may be "not very."

After all, the Dodgers not only lost Tuesday's series opener to the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3, they looked terrible doing it, giving up eight walks and six stolen bases.

And if that wasn't bad enough, former Dodger Jayson Werth tied a 31-year-old franchise record with four steals when he swiped home for the Phillies' last run in the seventh inning.

Werth stole home on a slow toss from catcher Russell Martin to reliever Ronald Belisario.

"It's embarrassing," Martin said of Werth's final stolen base, although that description also fit a lot of other things that happened to the Dodgers on Tuesday.

"That shouldn't happen."

Especially now, with the Dodgers not only trying to show they can win without Ramirez, but trying to show they can beat good teams as well. Although the Dodgers began their first East Coast trip with the best record in Baseball, only five of their first 33 games were against teams with winning records. They're wading into deeper water over the next two weeks, though, playing 12 in a row against teams that began Tuesday a combined eight games over .500.

"We know that the caliber of teams that we're going to be playing this road trip are better, probably, than what we faced so far this year," Martin said. "And we are going to have to step it up if we want to win. We're just going to have to prove that we can beat good teams."

The Dodgers got off to a quick start, with Juan Pierre doubling off the wall in right, then coming home on Orlando Hudson's one-out single to go up 1-0 after three batters. But that lead proved short-lived with starter Clayton Kershaw (1-3) giving up a run and two walks in the third before completely falling apart in the fourth when the Phillies batted around, scoring three runs in a half-inning that featured 44 pitches, three hits, two walks, two stolen bases and an error.

"Teams like this really capitalize on mistakes a lot more," Kershaw said of the Phillies. "Especially this team. It will exploit your weaknesses."

Unlike, say, the Padres and the Nationals, the teams Kershaw faced in his last two starts, both of which the Dodgers won.

"We have to measure ourselves," Manager Joe Torre said. "We know we're good. [But] we're going to find out how good we are when you start playing clubs like the Phillies."

He did find out one thing Tuesday: His club's not about to quit.

Even after Werth's deflating steal of home extended the Phillies' lead in the seventh, the Dodgers rallied to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth before Shane Victorino made an off-balance catch of Pierre's line drive to center for the final out.

"We know we're a good club. With Manny, without Manny," said Torre, whose team lost for the fourth time in five games since Ramirez went into seclusion. "But obviously," he added with a smile, "with Manny you're a better club."

--

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 13, 2009

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