The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in last place this late in the season, they wound up making the playoffs.
A similar surge seems awfully unlikely this time.
The punchless Dodgers have scored the fewest runs in the majors in July, a slump they’ll try to start putting an end to when they open a nine-game homestand against the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Los Angeles (43-55) hasn’t been alone in the NL West cellar this late since July 31, 2006, but only five games separated the Dodgers from division-leading San Diego then. They wound up tying the Padres by winning their final seven games while earning the wild card.
This season, Los Angeles is 13 1/2 games back of front-running San Francisco with a lineup that has barely produced anything lately. The Dodgers, who fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland on Wednesday and replaced him with Dave Hansen, have scored a major league-low 37 runs this month.
They have a .196 batting average in those 16 contests and have been held to one or no runs in a remarkable eight of them.
“I don’t care how you slice it, guys gotta do their thing, guys gotta hit,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You can help a guy, but you can only help them to a point.”
Perhaps even more stunning is that the Dodgers have won three of the six times they’ve scored one run in July, most recently just hours after Pentland was shown the door. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw’s(notes) latest dominant performance, Dioner Navarro’s(notes) seventh-inning homer off Tim Lincecum(notes) was all Los Angeles needed to beat the Giants 1-0 on Wednesday.
Andre Ethier(notes) and James Loney(notes) are a combined 9 for 71 (.127) since July 5 - Loney was benched Wednesday in favor of Juan Rivera(notes) - but the Dodgers especially need Matt Kemp(notes) to get going. Hitting .331 with an NL-best 1.043 OPS through June, Kemp is batting .200 in July with a .591 OPS that’s not even among the top 130 in the majors.
The Nationals (48-50) also find themselves 13 1/2 games out of first in the NL East, and they’re coming off a series loss to baseball’s worst team. After opening with a win in Houston on Monday, Washington lost the final two games by a run apiece, most recently falling 3-2 in 11 innings Wednesday.
“It’s kind of like all year we aren’t matching up,” said right fielder Jayson Werth(notes), who had three extra-base hits Wednesday to equal his total from his previous 28 games. “If we pitch, we don’t hit. You hope that we will match up. … We are going to have to pitch, and we are going to have to hit if we are going to play in the postseason.”
The Dodgers’ offensive problems have prevented the right-hander from getting wins recently. Kuroda has a 2.59 ERA in his last eight starts, but fell to 1-6 in that stretch after allowing three runs over six innings of a 3-2 loss at Arizona on Saturday.
John Lannan(notes) (6-6, 3.62) will try to keep Los Angeles slumping, and he’s gone 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last 10 starts. He wasn’t great at Atlanta on Saturday, allowing five hits, four walks and two runs over 5 2-3 innings, but that was enough for a 5-2 win.
Lannan has gone 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers, holding Kemp to one hit in eight at-bats.