The Los Angeles Dodgers were stumbling through the early part of their season with an offense that seemingly couldn’t produce any clutch hits in any big moments.
They think their just-ended winning streak helped change that.
The Dodgers will try to rebound from their first loss in nine games on Monday when they open a three-game home series against the New York Mets, who made the first half of their NL West road trip a successful one.
Los Angeles started just 9-13, and had scored one or fewer runs in seven of their losses. The offense was averaging only 4.3 runs, and the Dodgers (17-14) were hitting .267 as a team.
But all of a sudden, the struggling offense caught fire, and so did Los Angeles. The Dodgers scored 70 runs in winning eight straight games, raising the team’s average to .284, one of the top marks in the NL.
The streak was halted Sunday in a 7-2 loss to Colorado, Los Angeles’ fewest runs since an 8-1 defeat at Cincinnati on April 22.
“They outplayed us in every aspect,” said starter Derek Lowe, who allowed three first-inning runs and five overall in five innings. “Those losses are easier to take than when you beat yourself.”
But even though nothing seemed to go right for the Dodgers on Sunday, manager Joe Torre has seen plenty of cause for optimism with his team’s overall play of late.
“I certainly feel much better about the team,” Torre told the team’s official Web site. “Coming to the park expecting to win is a nice way to feel, and I expect we’ll get another streak started tomorrow.
“Our people had a lot of good at-bats.”
The Dodgers’ winning streak came to an end, but Matt Kemp kept his hitting streak alive. The 23-year-old right fielder has hit safely in Los Angeles’ last nine games, during which he’s batting .410 with 16 RBIs and six stolen bases.
Kemp is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with four homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games against the Mets (16-13) at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers will hand the ball to another 23-year-old on Monday when Chad Billingsley (1-4, 5.20 ERA) takes the hill. Despite striking out 30 in his first four starts, Billingsley lost each outing. But he was impressive on Wednesday, allowing just one run in seven innings and striking out eight in a 13-1 win at Florida.
Billingsley has never faced New York, which is coming off an impressive series win to begin its trip out West. The Mets took two of three from major league-best Arizona, including a 5-2 win on Sunday in a game that was tied heading into the ninth.
New York only had six hits, but took advantage of a ninth-inning error to score three runs.
“Any time a team makes mistakes on you, you make sure you make them pay for it,” manager Willie Randolph said.
Oliver Perez (2-2, 4.03) will make the start for the Mets, and he’s coming off yet another shaky outing. Perez, who’s had a history of struggling to find the plate, walked five against Pittsburgh on Wednesday and allowed seven runs— two earned—in just 1 2-3 innings of a 13-1 loss.
Closer Billy Wagner called Perez—and the rest of his team—out after that loss, saying the left-hander needs to “step up.”
“I hope he pitches better,” manager Willie Randolph said. “He should.”
Perez is 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA in six career starts at Dodger Stadium, including one seven-walk performance.
Mets third baseman David Wright is a .461 career hitter (41-for-89) with two homers and 25 RBIs against Los Angeles, and he has at least one RBI in eight straight games against the Dodgers dating back to last season.