Nationals-Dodgers Preview

Having squandered recent chances to make up ground on their

division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers hope to turn things around

while playing their next 10 games against NL East foes.

The Washington Nationals begin that stretch Friday night by

visiting Dodger Stadium, where they’ll try to hold down a Los

Angeles offense that continues to sputter.

The Dodgers (56-53) played their last 10 games against the top

two teams in the NL West. They went 3-7 against San Diego and San

Francisco, slipping eight games behind the Padres and six back of

the Giants for the wild card.

Manager Joe Torre had hoped his team’s lengthy slump was over

when Los Angeles beat the Padres 9-0 on Wednesday, but the Dodgers

were blanked for the 12th time this season in Thursday’s 5-0

defeat.

Complicating matters, they’ll be without shortstop Rafael Furcal

(sore back) for the rest of this homestand, and catcher Russell

Martin (hip) for the season following recent injuries.

“We hope that we can overcome it and play well,” Torre said of

Martin’s absence. “We have two good catchers that maybe don’t give

us the offense that Russell does, but they certainly can handle the

defensive part of it.”

Offense continues to be the biggest problem. In 21 games since

the All-Star break, the Dodgers have been held to two or fewer runs

14 times, a huge reason they’ve gone 7-14.

Andre Ethier is batting .203 with 20 strikeouts in that stretch,

while team RBI leader James Loney has hit .192 with three RBIs.

The Nationals (48-61) limited Los Angeles to five runs while

taking two of three from the Dodgers in Washington from April

23-25, finishing the series with a 1-0 win.

Another pitchers’ duel could be on tap Friday with Los Angeles

sending Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 2.94 ERA) to the mound. The

left-hander was on the short end of a 2-0 loss Sunday despite

pitching seven strong innings at San Francisco.

“I had one pitch that someone did something with,” Kershaw said,

referring to Edgar Renteria’s two-run triple in the sixth. “I’m not

worried about our hitting. I’m here to put zeros up there. (Giants

right-hander Matt Cain) just put one more zero up there than I

did.”

Kershaw is unbeaten at home since May 4, going 5-0 with a 2.02

ERA in his last eight starts at Chavez Ravine. In two career home

starts against the Nationals, he is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA, although

slugger Adam Dunn is 5 for 8 with a home run and two doubles in his

career off Kershaw.

Washington’s John Lannan (2-5, 5.63) completes the matchup of

southpaws, making his second major league start since a month-long

stint with Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals’ opening day starter was sent down due to

ineffectiveness, but battled through five innings Sunday against

Philadelphia, allowing two runs and seven hits in Washington’s 6-4,

11-inning loss.

The Nationals began a seven-game trip by splitting a four-game

series in Arizona. They squandered a chance to win their first road

series since May 10-12 against the Mets with an 8-4 loss Thursday

night, making three errors.

“Too many nights like that early on put us we are in the

standings and we were making a lot of progress,” manager Jim

Riggleman said. “We took a step backward (Thursday).”

Ryan Zimmerman remained a bright spot for Washington with two

homers. The third baseman is 10 for 23 with four homers in his last

six games, but he is 9 for 43 (.209) with one homer in his career

at Dodger Stadium.