LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers misfired on all cylinders on Wednesday night, combining uncommon wildness from ace Clayton Kershaw, a lackluster offense for a third consecutive night, sloppy defense, and manager Dave Roberts watching it all burn.
The result was an 8-6 defeat at the hands of the lowly Marlins, who took two of three games at Dodger Stadium for their first series win of the season. That’s just one fewer than the Dodgers.
“We’re better than that, obviously,” said first baseman Cody Bellinger.
The offense on Wednesday made Trevor Richards look nearly unhittable in his 4⅔ innings. The 24-year-old right-hander struck out 10 and walked three in his outing, and the only hit against him came off the bat of Kershaw, a one-out single in the third inning.
“We really couldn’t figure him out,” said Roberts of Richards, who was making his fifth major league start.
Marlins starting pitchers entered this series with a 5.56 ERA, yet permitted just two total runs on nine hits in 16 innings against the Dodgers, with 20 strikeouts and seven walks.
“I don’t think we played good. I think their starters the last two days made some pitches we didn’t take or put good swings on them,” said shortstop Corey Seager. “It’s a little frustrating for sure.”
Walk on the wild side
Kershaw played with fire all night, walking a stunning six batters in his five innings, which is double his walk total through his first five starts of the season. The six walks tied a career high for Kershaw. It was the third such game of his career, but his first since April 7, 2010, eons ago.
Since the start of 2016 Kershaw only had two three-start stretches with six total walks, let alone one game.
For a little while Kershaw was escaping in spite of his wildness. Miami loaded the bases against him in the second and fourth innings but failed to score.
Kershaw didn’t face a single batter with the bases loaded through his first five starts of the season, but on Wednesday the Marlins had plenty of opportunities. They were 0-for-5 with two strikeouts though with the bases juiced, which allowed Kershaw to keep the game scoreless into the fifth inning.
“I just wasn’t very good. A lot of guys on base,” Kershaw said. “I almost skated out of it. I probably should have given up more than that.”
After two relatively quick outs in the fifth Kershaw’s wildness continued. He was ahead 1-2 on Justin Bour but walked him, his fifth free pass of the game. Cameron Maybin followed with yet another walk, giving the Marlins another runner in scoring position.
At that point Kershaw, who again is showing wildness normally not seen out of him, was at 105 pitches, his most in any start since before the All-Star break in 2017. The Dodgers at the moment have nine relievers on the active roster plus an off day on Thursday.
Roberts, who went with Pedro Baez over Kenley Jansen in a tie game in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss, on Wednesday chose to stay with his struggling ace.
“I just felt it was his game to try to get through that inning,” Roberts said. “You’ve got Maybin and Rojas and I’ll still take my chances with Clayton.”
Miguel Rojas, an outstanding defensive infielder with a career .254/.312/.331 slash line entering Wednesday — a 79 OPS+ and a 76 wRC+ — finally made Kershaw pay for the walks by crushing a ball off the left field foul pole for a three-run home run.
Rojas, a former Dodger who had four career home runs in 839 plate appearances in his first four seasons, has three home runs in 101 PA in 2018.
“He just couldn’t get into a rhythm. It seemed like he was laboring and was really out of sync,” Roberts said. “To his credit he kept competing, and was one out away from going five innings scoreless.”
The Dodgers scored a courtesy run in the sixth, but J.T. Realmuto made it real moot with a pair of home runs against the Dodgers bullpen, the first home runs allowed this season by both Daniel Hudson and Scott Alexander.
That insurance was more than enough to withstand a two-run home run by Matt Kemp in the eighth inning to pull the Dodgers within three.
Don’t worry though. Roberts called on Jansen for the ninth inning of a game this series. He pitched the ninth inning on Wednesday, entering with a 6-3 deficit. Jansen was not immune to the Dodgers malaise, with two errors plus a slip-and-fall single leading to two more runs, which gave the Marlins even more insurance that they needed to withstand three more Dodgers runs in the ninth.
But it was too little, too late for Los Angeles.
“Regardless of who we play we have to play complete baseball,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers are off Thursday, then will pack a lot of baseball into an 11-game, 10-day, three-city, two-country road trip. It all starts Friday night in San Francisco, where Hyun-jin Ryu will start for the Dodgers and Derek Holland for the Giants in a battle of southpaws.
Home runs: Matt Kemp (4), Yasmani Grandal (4); Miguel Rojas (3), J.T. Realmuto 2 (4)
WP - Merandy Gonzalez (1-0): 3 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk
LP - Clayton Kershaw (1-4): 5 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 6 walks, 7 strikeouts