The Los Angeles Dodgers could be playing themselves out of the race for the NL West title. Having Derek Lowe on the mound against the lowly Washington Nationals could help prevent that from continuing.
The reeling Dodgers look to avoid a fifth consecutive loss while trying to continue their dominance over the Nationals when the teams open a three-game set Tuesday night in the nation’s capital.
Los Angeles (65-66) capped four straight losses at Philadelphia with a 5-0 defeat on Monday. It was the sixth loss in seven games for the Dodgers, who were tied with Arizona atop the NL West on Aug. 17, but are now three games behind the first-place Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers, though, are in position to avoid matching their season high losing streak by facing Washington (46-85), which has lost two in a row and 14 of its last 16. Los Angeles has won six in a row over the Nationals and 11 of the last 12 meetings, including a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium from July 25-27.
Lowe (10-10, 3.89 ERA) looks for his third consecutive victory overall while trying to remain perfect versus the Nationals franchise. For the second straight contest he allowed one run, this time with four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-1 victory over Colorado on Thursday.
“When he’s hitting his spots like that, he’s tough,” Colorado’s Ian Stewart said of Lowe, who is 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA over his last three starts.
The right-hander has won all five starts with a 2.45 ERA against Washington and allowed one hit in eight innings of a 6-0 victory over the Nationals on July 26.
Despite their dominance of Washington, the Dodgers need to improve offensively in order to continue their success against the Nationals.
On Monday, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp each had three of the 13 hits for Los Angeles, which was outscored 27-5 by the Phillies and has totaled 14 runs over its last seven contests. Only the 1913 New York Giants and the 1928 Cleveland Indians have had more hits (14 each) without scoring a run in a nine-inning game.
“You draw it up and the law of averages says you’re going to score some runs, but you can’t depend on that,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said.
Manny Ramirez is hitting .361 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 23 games since being traded from Boston to Los Angeles, but has gone seven straight contests without an RBI.
Washington rookie Collin Balester (2-6 4.99) hopes to avoid a fourth consecutive loss when he faces the Dodgers for the first time. He allowed three earned runs and seven hits in six innings of a 4-0 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“The toughest thing for me is to keep the ball down more consistently,” said Balester, who has yielded eight homers in nine starts. “It’s not a maybe thing. You’ve got to do it. I’ve got to work on that because it’s killing me.”
Washington fell 6-1 at Chicago on Sunday and scored three runs in losing the final two games of the set after winning the opener 13-5.
Ronnie Belliard has been swinging a very hot bat for the Nationals, hitting .513 (20-for-39) with a homer and seven RBIs over his last 10 games.