Scuffling Dodger offense stifled again

It took six innings on Tuesday night before the boo birds began perching themselves above the Dodger Stadium batters box.

After a 1-2-3 sixth inning induced in eight pitches by Josh Roenicke (4-0), voices of displeasure began raining down upon a team that managed to put up 16 consecutive zeroes on the scoreboard against a team that entered Tuesday with a Major League-worst 5.46 ERA.

Though Colorado surrendered a run on an eighth-inning Mark Ellis RBI double, they held on for a 3-1 win and are on the verge of a series sweep after entering play this week 30 games under .500 and winners of only five games since the All-Star Break. After allowing 35 runs while getting swept in San Francisco last weekend, the Rockies have held Los Angeles to one run over 18 innings through two games and now lead the season series, six games to five.

“There was nothing about the effort or us wanting to or taking these guys lightly,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I don’t think any of that was part of what happened tonight. It was a matter of us not getting the hit.”

For the second consecutive night, the Dodgers wasted a fine performance by a starting pitcher who put his team in position to win the game. After L.A. failed to capitalize on Chris Capuano’s seven innings and two earned runs allowed on Monday night, on Tuesday it was Aaron Harang’s quality start that went for naught. Harang (7-7) allowed one run through six innings before the first two batters he faced in the seventh reached base. They eventually scored on Josh Rutledge’s third double of the game, which came on a sharply hit ball down the left field line against reliever Shawn Tolleson.

“They’re playing well. They’re battling us,” Harang said of Colorado’s effort. “I’ve been on teams like that where you get to this point, and you have nothing to lose but to destroy everything else for other teams. So they’re coming out and playing hard, and they’re scrapping runs together.”

Though there hasn’t been any consistent hitting up and down the Dodger lineup this week, save for several hard-hit balls by Shane Victorino and an RBI pinch hit double by Mark Ellis on Tuesday, the bottom of the lineup has been particularly troublesome, as the six through nine hitters have combined to go 1-for-25 with seven strikeouts against the Rockies over the first two games of the series.

While Mattingly commended “some really good at-bats” of his, Jerry Hairston is beginning to become a touch overexposed and is hitless in his last 16 at bats, dropping his average to .273, the lowest it has been since late April. Since peaking with a .394 batting average on May 28, the useful utility player has hit .225 over his last 161 at bats with only 12 extra base hits over that span.

“It’s almost like they wanted it a little bit too much and were trying a little too hard for me tonight,” Mattingly said. “Start trying to force it and trying to make it happen. We just need to make sure we’re relaxed and get good pitches to hit. Don’t try to do too much. Keep it simple.”

It was a change of rhythm for the Dodger lineup, which has to contend with a Colorado staff with starters adhering to a loose 75-pitch limit under manager Jim Tracy. After Drew Pomeranz and Alex White turned in four innings of work as starting pitchers Monday and Tuesday, the Rockies’ middle men have stifled the Dodgers in innings five through seven. Adam Ottavino, who earned the win on Monday, and Roenicke have posted nearly identical stat lines while combining to allow two hits over six innings, striking out four while walking just one batter.

“It’s a little different, that’s for sure,” Mattingly said. “It’s a little more like a spring training game. You’re not really getting the same type of look you get at a starter.”

If there is any solace to be taken from the loss, it’s that Los Angeles had better at-bats on Tuesday and just couldn’t find the big hit to get the offensive wheels rolling.

“I hate to say ‘guys trying too hard,’ but it felt like that tonight,” Mattingly said, while noting that Juan Rivera hit two balls squarely deep into the outfield that could have been home runs in other major league ballparks.

For the tough-luck loser Harang, perspective and composure are key.

“These guys will get out of their little rut and start putting up a lot of runs,” he said. “I think it’s just all around maybe trying too much pressure on ourselves, and we need to just go out there and have fun.