CINCINNATI (AP)—With their growing string of zeroes, the Los Angeles Dodgers are sinking deeper into one of those slumps that comes around once in a generation.
Shades of ’66.
Ken Griffey Jr. singled home a run and made a pair of rally-snuffing defensive plays Wednesday night, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 victory that left Los Angeles blanked for the third game in a row.
The Dodgers’ offensive slump is reaching near-epic proportions. They hadn’t been shut out three games in a row since 1966. That year, they got blanked three in a row from April 23-25, then again in the last three games of their World Series while they were getting swept by Baltimore.
With every errant swing, they look like their ’66 selves. And the gallows humor is starting.
Manager Grady Little noted that he watched Harang and 56-year-old pitching coach Dick Pole leave the Reds bullpen after pregame warmups.
“I saw two big men walk through that gate, and either one of them could have shut us out tonight,” Little said. “We’re in it bad right now.”
The Dodgers didn’t hit the ball hard very often off right-hander Aaron Harang (11-3) and when they did, some glove was there to extend the agony. Harang gave up four hits over eight muggy innings, and the Reds made four exemplary plays to keep Los Angeles stuck on zero again.
Los Angeles hasn’t scored in its last 28 innings.
“One big hit. That’s all we need,” said Matt Kemp, who thought he had broken the bad spell in the eighth inning, only to get robbed by second baseman Brandon Phillips. “When you’re going bad, you do something good and the other team does something to bring you back down.”
Los Angeles has lost a season-high six in a row and been shut out in four of the last five games. The Dodgers have dropped 15 of 20 overall, plummeting from first place to fourth in the NL West for the first time since April 5.
“It’s tough,” said Chad Billingsley (7-3), who lost despite giving up only one run. “Our third shutout in a row. It’s a tough stretch we’re going through right here. Bad luck’s coming toward us right now.”
Griffey’s run-scoring single off Billingsley in the third inning put the Reds in line for the win. The right fielder also made a pair of impressive catches to steal hits.
Griffey made a diving, backhand catch on James Loney’s soft fly leading off the third, then ran down Jeff Kent’s leadoff liner to the warning track in the seventh. Without those catches, the Dodgers would have had something going.
Loney opened the eighth with a double, but Phillips saved the shutout by making a diving catch of Kemp’s sinking liner, then flipping to second to double up Loney and multiply the Dodgers’ frustration.
“I saw him catching the ball all the way,” Harang said. “That was a huge play right there. That cut that inning down really fast.”
Kemp ran a few steps toward first base, saw the catch and reared the bat over his shoulder in frustration.
“That’s just how it’s going right now,” Kemp said.
Phillips made a diving stop on Kent’s up-the-middle grounder and threw him out to end the game with another sensational play that brought more Dodger blues.
“Pitching and defense—the old equation for success in baseball,” interim manager Pete Mackanin said. “Griffey made a couple of nice catches, and you can’t say enough about Phillips’ play at the end.”
With Harang back in form, the Dodgers’ best chance of scoring was to get into the NL’s worst bullpen. Not even that worked. David Weathers got the last three outs for his 22nd save in 27 chances.
For the second day in a row, it was 97 degrees at the first pitch—the hottest temperature for a game in Great American Ball Park’s five seasons. The heat seemed to help Harang.
The right-hander had to leave his July 28 start in Chicago after only one inning because of lower-back pain. Although he felt fine during workouts, the Reds kept an extra relief pitcher around in part because they weren’t sure how Harang’s back would react when he got on the mound again.
After 11 pitches, they had their answer. Harang coasted through the first inning with that many throws. His fastball nudged 94 mph on the scoreboard and his slider had regained its nastiness—signs that his back was fine and the Dodgers were in trouble.
Kent went 0-for-4, ending his 12-game hitting streak. His streak of reaching base safely in 39 consecutive games also ended. … Reds OF Ryan Freel had surgery to repair cartilage and remove a bone spur from his right knee. Freel will miss the rest of the season. … The Reds claimed OF Jason Ellison off waivers from Seattle to fill Freel’s spot. Ellison is expected to join the Reds on Thursday, when they will get rid of one of their 13 pitchers to open a roster spot.