The Dodgers scored three runs on Tuesday in San Diego, which is more than they have averaged in the early going of the season. Though it felt like they could have scored much more. They left nine runners on base in their 9-3 loss to the Padres, and scored no runs in the first two innings despite putting the first two runners on base in each frame.
"We had 10 hits tonight, and we could have done more," said manager Don Mattingly.
Just one of those 10 hits on Tuesday came with runners in scoring position, something that has plagued the team in the first week. Yet the Dodgers don't seem worried, and at 4-3 despite their offensive woes it's hard to blame them.
"We'll see it all year long. The teams that get the most guys out there leave the most runners," said Mattingly. "The key for us is to continue to try to get runners out there, and the percentages will fall in our favor."
The Dodgers' on-base percentage through seven games is .327, good for sixth in the National League and well above the league average of .308 (through Monday). But their 2.86 runs per game ranks 10th in the NL.
The one hit with runners in scoring position came from Adrian Gonzalez, who is hitting .556 (5-for-9) in those situations so far and leads the team with six runs batted in. Nobody else on the team has more than two RBI. He echoed Mattingly's sentiments.
"The one upside is that we have been getting a lot of opportunities," Gonzalez said. "We have to keep grinding it out, and they will come. We just have to continue working."
Working is what Gonzalez has done against the Padres, hitting .500 (21-for-42) in 10 games against his old team, including six consecutive multi-hit games against them. In this case, he says, familiarity did not breed contempt.
"For the most part, I know them. I know how they are going to attack me, I know what they are thinking," Gonzalez said. "I was over there so long, I understand their game plan and what they are trying to do with hitters, so I think my game plan can be a little more precise."
That precision has helped Gonzalez so far this season, but as a team the Dodgers are hitting .159/.276/.175 (10-for-63) with runners in scoring position.
"The main thing is to continue to have good at-bats, get guys out there, then calm down with men on base," Mattingly said. "At that point you still have to stay within a game plan, stay with what we're doing, knowing what you want to hit off a guy, and not get too anxious in those spots."
On the flip side, Matt Kemp is 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and hitting just .120 (3-for-25) in the young season.
"I'm a little frustrated right now. We lost today. CC (Carl Crawford) and Mark (Ellis) have been doing a great job at the top of the lineup. I have to get in that mix of helping my team, if it's moving that runner over or driving those runs in, or getting on base for Adrian," Kemp said. "I have to a better job of that. Once that happens, we'll be a pretty dangerous team. We had a couple of chances today to score some more runs and we didn't do it."
Kemp, while frustrated, is still confident that things will turn around.
"I'm going to turn it around, I just want to do it now. I'm going to hit, so it's just a matter of time. I'm feeling good every day. I sometimes have bad at-bats. I have to have better at-bats," Kemp said. "It's just frustrating because I know I'm missing pitches that I normally hit. I have to think about hitting the ball to right center, and not trying to pull the ball, letting that ball get deep and trusting my hands. Then I'll be good, be dangerous."
Kemp in 2011-2012 hit a combined .320/.427/.615 with runners in scoring position, including 18 home runs in 307 plate appearances.
His confidence came through again when asked what he thought of the fences getting moved in at Petco Park.
"I don't care about fences," Kemp said, smiling. "When I'm on, can't no ballpark hold me."
So far though this season, ballparks have held Kemp. But after leading the team in home runs in each of the last three seasons, Kemp remains just one behind the 2013 team leaders: Andre Ethier, Justin Sellers, Juan Uribe, and Clayton Kershaw.
Yes, it's been that kind of season so far offensively for the Dodgers.