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08/21/10 2:54 AM ET

Dodgers' offense stalls against Reds

LOS ANGELES -- Manny Ramirez went 1-for-6 with five strikeouts in this week's rehab assignment at Class A Inland Empire, and if the Dodgers rush him back into the lineup this weekend, he should fit right in.

The only run the Dodgers scored Friday night reached base on a walk and scored on a bunt in a 3-1 loss to the Reds.

A throwing error by Carlos Monasterios, the emergency fill-in for injured starter Vicente Padilla, led to a pair of unearned runs that were the difference as the first-place Reds found a way to win and the Dodgers found a way to, well, you know.

"You hold the opposition to a number of runs that make the game winnable," said manager Joe Torre, "but we can't do anything right now."

The offense went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, the only hit being Ryan Theriot's perfect safety-squeeze bunt to score Jamey Carroll. For the Dodgers these days, that's a rally.

Even though Ramirez hasn't been a true offensive force since before last year's suspension, opposing teams still respect his reputation as a slugger and pitch the entire Dodgers order differently when he's in it, especially with Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin also out of it.

"When he's healthy, he is that [viewed as a threat by opponents]," Torre said of Ramirez. "I'm not saying he's not going to play [Saturday], but I'd rather talk to him first."

So awakening the offense is one reason to rush him back. Another is that, until he is activated, he can't be put through waivers. And until he's put through waivers, he can't be traded. And he can't be traded after Aug. 31 and still be eligible for the postseason, so the window is closing.

If and when the Dodgers decide they are sellers and not buyers, Ramirez is likely to head a list of soon-to-be free agents that could go elsewhere, along with Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Scott Podsednik and Octavio Dotel.

In the meantime, they are looking through the trade market for another catcher in the wake of Russell Martin's season-ending broken hip. Brad Ausmus, who has done the bulk of the catching since Martin's injury, had a pair of hits in this game.

For now, the Dodgers want to believe they are still in the hunt for October, even though they are 12 games behind first-place San Diego, seven behind second-place San Diego and eight back in the Wild Card.

The loss to Homer Bailey and the Reds snapped a streak of 12 consecutive wins over the Reds at home dating back to 2005, the longest such streak in Dodgers franchise history.

"It's a new year," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "We have a different team and a better team. They were banged up some. A couple of their key players were out."

The Dodgers publicity department noted that the last Reds win at Dodger Stadium, July 28, 2005, was started for the Dodgers by D.J. Houlton, the last Rule 5 rookie to remain in the Major Leagues the entire season.

The next one will be Monasterios, even though he still hasn't conquered the seemingly simple task of throwing a baseball to his first baseman. With the game tied at 1, Monasterios allowed a single to Ryan Hanigan leading off the fourth and Drew Stubbs put down a bunt. Monasterios fielded the ball but had an awkward grip and shut-putted a throw that pulled James Loney off the bag.

Two outs later, Brandon Phillips shot his third single of the game back through the box for a 3-1 lead.

"That one was a backbreaker," said Torre, "but we've got to find a way to generate offense."

Monasterios ran up his pitch count to 88 by the time Torre got him with one out in the fifth inning.

"He got in a real slow rhythm and it looked like he was unsure of himself," said Torre. "He was too deliberate. The throw to first base, he's done that a couple times before. In [pitchers' fielding practice], he's all right. It's something you expect to get better."

Monasterios is 2-4 as a starter.

"Overall, I didn't feel that bad," he said. "I tried to contribute to the team and it's disappointing I wasn't able to do that."

The Dodgers' bullpen had one of its better games recently. Ronald Belisario retired the two batters he faced to bail out Monasterios in the fifth, Kenley Jansen and Octavio Dotel pitched two scoreless innings each, striking out three.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.