There have been a lot of frustrating walks back to the dugout for the Dodgers of late.
There aren't many things more frustrating than watching a team struggling to score runs. The Dodgers are there right now, losers of seven of their last eight games with just 14 runs during that span.
Fans are frustrated, and rightfully so, as the sounds emanating from Dodger Stadium these days all sound the same. Either "Cruuuuuuuz" for unsung hero Luis Cruz or "booooooooo" for just about everyone else.
Fans want to see fire, they want to see passion, especially with a spot as the second wild card right there for the taking. But it's hard for the players to show that fire when they simply aren't hitting.
"Our energy has been pretty good," said manager Don Mattingly. "You can fake it all you want, but it's hard to create energy without any runs."
Mattingly said that before Tuesday's game.
"It's hard not to press when you're unable to put runs on the board, and it's been a long-term thing," Mattingly said after the Dodgers' fourth straight loss, 2-1 to the Cardinals. "It's been a lot of the same game over and over, and we have got to get over that hump. I don't know really know how to identify where that hump is, but we have to get across it."
But with just 18 games remaining in the regular season, just how to the Dodgers get over that hump?
"Just get over the hump. There's no way of explaining it," said Matt Kemp. "Just one good at-bat at a time, and see where it takes you."
Therein lies part of the problem, at least from a perception standpoint. Fans see no runs, and they wonder why the team isn't trying, as if baseball were that easy.
The Dodgers have been down this road before, earlier this season in fact. They scored a paltry 17 runs in a 13-game stretch in June, one of the worst stretches of futility in franchise history. But that team was much different that it is now. Kemp was hamstrung and watching from the dugout, and three current lineup fixtures were in Miami, Philadelphia, and Boston at the time.
"You could come up with all kinds of theories, maybe guys are trying too hard, they haven't been around together enough, maybe they're pressing," Mattingly said. "How we right it is what I look at. You go back to basics, you go back to work. Put your hard had on and let's go."
With a set lineup, there are no easy fixes. Mattingly can move the pieces around, as he did on Thursday by batting Andre Ethier second and Victorino sixth against a right-hander. But no matter where he hits Victorino is still in the lineup, and still needs to hit, as do his teammates around him.
Victorino was hated by Dodgers fans as a member of the Phillies, and he has done nothing to change his status in his six weeks or so in Los Angeles. He is hitting .245/.310/.329 as a Dodger, but it's not like there is anyone better on the roster to play left field. Juan Rivera is the closest the Dodgers have to a solution, but at .239/.280/.357 he's more of a problem, and that is without considering defense.
Victorino isn't hitting. Gonzalez isn't hitting. Ramirez isn't hitting. Kemp isn't hitting and is likely hurt. These are problems, big ones in fact. But the problems are also the solutions, as the best hopes the Dodgers have rest in the hopes that the middle of their order will start to hit like they can, and soon.
"I can't really explain to you what's going on. We just need to start hitting," Kemp said. "That's baseball, I'm not baffled. In baseball people go through times when you don't hit. It just so happens that not really any of us are hitting, and we have to find a way to get the job done."