The Dodgers did not clinch the National League West on Monday night, but it wasn't for a lack of trying, or heart, or whatever you want to call it. A lack of offense, sure, as the Dodgers fell 3-2 in 12 innings to the Giants in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park, with Alejandro De Aza driving home Marlon Byrd with the game-winning sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles remains one win away from a division title, owners of a five-game lead over San Francisco with six games left to play.
Marlon Byrd singled to open the 12th inning, then moved to third base on a single by Kelby Tomlinson, both against Yimi Garcia, which necessitated a five-man infield for one batter.
Five man infield for the Dodgers in the 12th pic.twitter.com/LsCm0KsQkm— Ryan Walton (@RyanWaltonMLB) September 29, 2015
Trevor Brown grounded to third for the first out of the inning, then Adam Liberatore entered to face De Aza, facing a more conventional defense. De Aza drove one to Justin Ruggiano in left field, plenty deep enough to score Byrd with the winning run.
The Dodgers have scored eight runs in seven games in San Francisco this season, never more than two in any one game. But it could have been worse.
Down 2-1, Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez opened the ninth inning with singles against left-handed reliever Josh Osich, then were both sacrificed into scoring position against closer Santiago Casilla by Justin Turner, his first sacrifice hit in 748 plate appearances with the Dodgers.
Andre Ethier followed with a ground out to second base to bring home the tying run, extending the Dodgers' life.
The Dodgers put two more runners on in the 10th, including a single by Kiké Hernandez in his first swing off the disabled list, but southpaw Javier Lopez struck out Seager to end the threat.
Two more runners reached in the 11th, but Chase Utley grounded into a double play to end the frame.
Zack Greinke allowed a couple singles in the second inning, then saw rookie catcher Brown cash both in with a two-out double to right center field.
Considering the Dodgers entered Friday with just six runs in six games in San Francisco this season, never more than two in any single contest, this deficit posed quite a problem.
Carl Crawford singled with two outs in the third inning, then stole second. He scored on a single to center field by Seager, cutting the Giants' lead to 2-1. For Seager, it marked the 20th consecutive start to begin his career that he has reached base by hit, walk or hit by pitch, four games shy of the franchise record, set by Jim Gilliam in 1953.
That run snapped a string of 36 consecutive innings for the Dodgers at AT&T Park without a run, with Crawford the first Dodger to touch home plate since Adrian Gonzalez on April 23.
But after that RBI single, Jake Peavy shut the Dodgers down, retiring 13 of the next 14 batters, including his final eight batters faced. The Dodgers had four runners reach base against Peavy, who tied a season high by pitching seven innings, allowing only one run.
Greinke was lifted for a pinch hitter and limited to seven innings, allowing a pair of runs on four hits and three walks, striking out seven.
The Dodgers try to uncork some bubbly again on Tuesday night, this time with Clayton Kershaw on the mound against Madison Bumgarner, a showdown of the highest order. This is the fourth time they will meet in 2015. I will let you guess which team won the first three.
Home runs: none
WP - Hunter Strickland (3-3): 1⅔ IP, 1 hit
LP - Yimi Garcia (3-5): ⅓ IP, 2 hits, 1 run