On the day the Dodgers would be officially eliminated from playoff contention, James Loney reflected on what went wrong this season.
“At times,” he said, “teams played harder than us.”
Asked whether the Dodgers’ postseason teams of the last two seasons had more of an edge, Loney replied, “Yeah, I think just as a whole.”
The Dodgers had their long-awaited elimination confirmed before the completion of their 6-0 defeat to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
With the first-place San Francisco Giants beating the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, at least one of the three teams ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West was assured of concluding the regular season with 86 wins. Before falling to the Padres, the most games the Dodgers could have won was 85.
The Dodgers were eliminated from the wild-card race Sunday.
Loney denied that the Dodgers had grown complacent as of result of reaching the NL Championship Series in each of the last two seasons.
“I think we want to win,” he said. “We want to finish it. We want to win the World Series. But the other teams are trying to do that, too.”
And because those other teams were chasing them, they might have been hungrier.
So how did the Dodgers’ periodic less-than-full effort manifest itself on the field?
“You’ve got to run hard every time,” Loney said.
So Loney didn’t see that?
“Not all the time,” he said.
But Loney added that the occasional letdown was a symptom of frustration, not of a lack of desire to win.
“There’s talent, too,” he said. “The other teams have good talent.”
Loney said the Dodgers could learn from this experience.
“It’s not necessarily that if you have good players you’re going to win,” he said. “You have to play as a team. Guys, hopefully, they see what we’ve gone through this year and people don’t want to be in this position next year.”
Casey Blake was less certain about why the Dodgers fell short.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “In order to be a championship team, obviously you’ve got to be playing well, but you’ve got to have a lot of things go your way. It seems like we didn’t have either of those happen for us.”
Blake lamented the number of injuries the Dodgers suffered, pointing to the prolonged absences of Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier and Vicente Padilla.
“I was out five games and that really killed us,” deadpanned Blake, who is hitting .248.
Perhaps fittingly, the Dodgers were shut out Tuesday for a major league-leading 17th time.
Padres starter Clayton Richard pitched his first career shutout, as the Dodgers left seven men on base and were 0 for 5 with men in scoring position.
Chad Billingsley (11-11) gave up five runs and six hits in five innings. He walked three and hit a batter.
Because this is his final season, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre will slightly alter his annual tradition of letting a player manage the last game of the regular season. Torre will be in charge in the season finale against Arizona on Oct. 3, but said he would let players manage the two games before that. Russell Martin will manage Oct. 1.