The Los Angeles Dodgers hope changing their hitting coach can help their struggling offense.
Coming off their highest scoring output in more than three weeks, the Dodgers will try for just their second winning streak since the All-Star break as they open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds.
Los Angeles fired hitting coach Jack Clark late Sunday after the team returned home from a 2-7 road trip, dropping them 13 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West and 6 1/2 games back of Philadelphia in the wild-card race.
George Hendrick replaces Clark on an interim basis. Hendrick began work in the Dodgers’ organization in February and was the hitting coach for the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League.
The Dodgers are last in the National League in batting average (.239), on-base percentage (.297) hits (888), walks (260) and home runs (74). The only other major league team that ranks lower in any of those categories is Detroit, which is hitting .234 with 364 runs scored.
Robin Ventura had the first inside-the-park homer of his career Sunday as the Dodgers ended a five-game losing streak with an 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. It was the most runs Los Angeles scored since an 8-5 victory at St. Louis on July 18.
The Dodgers had managed only 12 runs in their previous nine games. They now seek their first winning streak since taking two straight July 17-18.
Ventura’s homer came on a drive to the left-center gap. Darren Bragg jumped against the wall attempting a backhanded catch, but the ball popped loose as he turned his glove and crashed into the padding. Sitting on the ground, Bragg snagged the ball with his bare hand before it struck the ground, holding it for the umpires to see.
Jeff Kellogg, running out from his position at second base, ruled that the ball had struck the wall. Bragg tried to flip the ball to left fielder Chipper Jones, but it sailed over his head. Ventura never stopped running, sliding across home before the Braves could retrieve the ball and throw home.
“Usually, someone has to go on the DL for me to get even a triple,” said Ventura, who started at first base for the first time since Sept. 2, 1996.
Cincinnati had a four-game winning streak end Sunday, losing 7-3 to the San Francisco Giants.
The Reds losing for the second time in six games under interim manager Dave Miley. They missed a chance to climb out of fifth place in the NL Central for the first time since July 19.
Reds catcher Jason LaRue hit his 14th homer Sunday, his third in the last four games. LaRue is 5-for-11 over that stretch.
STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 9 GB, NL Central. Dodgers - tied for 3rd place, 13 1/2 GB, NL West.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Danny Graves (4-11, 5.31 ERA). Graves is 0-4 with a 6.81 ERA in his last six outings. The right-hander hasn’t earned a win since July 1, when the Red beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3. Graves pitched well in his last start, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings but did not receive a decision as the Reds beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Wednesday. Graves is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 16 games against Los Angeles.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Kevin Brown (10-5, 2.10 ERA). Brown has lost his last four decisions after winning seven straight starts. The right-hander yielded two runs—one earned—and nine hits in six innings but did not receive a decision in the Dodgers’ 4-2 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Brown is 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 11 games against Cincinnati. He pitched well against the Reds earlier this season, giving up two runs and four hits in seven innings but did not get a decision in Los Angeles’ 3-2 loss on April 24.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Sean Casey, .294 avg.; Austin Kearns, 58 RBIs; Adam Dunn, 26 HRs and 67 runs; Dunn and Felipe Lopez, 8 SBs. Dodgers - Brian Jordan, .299 avg.; Jeromy Burnitz, 21 HRs and 53 RBIs; Shawn Green, 56 runs; Dave Roberts, 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Reds, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - 1B Casey has one hit in 10 at-bats with four strikeouts against Brown. … OF Dunn has one hit in his last 10 at-bats following a six-game hitting streak. … Cincinnati is second in the NL with 147 home runs, but is 14th with a .253 batting average. Dodgers - 3B Ventura is 5-for-10 with three RBIs against Graves. … OF Burnitz has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. … Hendrick was the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1995-96, and the Anaheim Angels in 1998-99.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 24-29 on the road; Dodgers - 29-25 at home.
INJURIES: Reds - OF Kearns (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Dempster (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Sullivan (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Ken Griffey Jr. (ankle), 60-day DL. Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; INF Ron Coomer (dizziness), 15-day DL; 1B Fred McGriff (abductor), 15-day DL; OF Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Kazuhisa Ishii (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL.