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Dodgers follow familiar script, get swept by Cubs to end disastrous road trip

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LA loses 6 of 7 on the road trip

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers ended their hellish stretch of 14 games in 14 days with a new low. A 6-5 loss to the Cubs in 11 innings on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field completed the sweep, and featured most of the same storylines from the last few weeks.

The last time the Dodgers were swept in a series was April 8-11, 2019, a four-game set in St. Louis.

The last two weeks weren’t just gruesome because of the Dodgers’ 3-11 record in the beautiful disaster that was 14 games. That was terrible, but since the stretch of games began the club lost five players to the injured list — not counting the three brief COVID-19-related stints — including Dustin May needing Tommy John surgery. The losses, on and off the field, are taking a toll.

“We’re absolutely frustrated,” said Max Muncy, who homered and doubled on Wednesday. “We’re way better than this. Period.”

After the first two losses of the series sweep, on Tuesday, manager Dave Roberts said, “I think we put ourselves in position to play extra innings in games we probably shouldn’t have.”

Wednesday night was a slightly different song, but with many of the same notes.

Defensive woes

Corey Seager’s play at shortstop has been a point of contention most of the season. He rates out below average in most publicly-available defensive metrics. Roberts has insisted that it’s a small sample size and that Seager will make the plays, but to this point in the season, for whatever reason, he hasn’t.

The usual problem for Seager is fielding the ball, with balls going under, around, and just out of the reach of his glove with alarming frequency. So it was a welcome sight in the eighth inning on Wednesday to see Seager deftly backhand a Kris Bryant grounder in the hole, but before the streamers and fireworks could be deployed, Seager promptly threw errantly into right field, putting old friend Joc Pederson on third base instead of retired to the Cubs’ third base dugout.

One batter later, Pederson scored the tying run on a ground out.

The Dodgers weren’t alone in receiving gifts on the defensive end, when a near inning-ending double play to Anthony Rizzo in the top of the 11th inning instead turned into only one out when he failed to step on first by mere inches.

But Rizzo redeemed Chicago in the bottom of the inning, delivering an RBI single to score Matt Duffy with the winning run, giving the Cubs a second straight walk-off.

Bullpen roulette

Rizzo’s walk-off single came against Garrett Cleavinger, who entered the 11th with a lead, the latest Dodger with a chance to become the fifth pitcher on the team to record a save this season. But like Jimmy Nelson, Mitch White (twice), and Alex Vesia before him, Cleavinger couldn’t convert.

The 11th inning started so promising for Cleavinger, who struck out his first two batters faced. But then a single by Duffy tied it, and then Duffy stole second to set up the winning hit, sending the rookie to his third extra-inning loss this season.

Kenley Jansen also blew a save in the 10th inning, and nearly took the loss. Pederson was front and center again in another play that would have normally fit right in to the usual script in so many of these Dodgers losses. Down a run with runners on second and third and nobody out in the 10th, Pederson crushed a ball that seemed destined for the right field seats, so much so that he threw his bat and begin celebrating what looked like a sure walk-off home run against his former team.

Only it died on the warning track, so he had to settle for a sacrifice fly.

Jansen then helped get the game to the 11th, after a pair of intentional walks to load the bases, he induced a ground ball from Willson Contreras that the Dodgers managed to turn into a double play to keep the game tied.

LA’s bullpen finished the 14-game stretch with a 3.96 ERA, which might seem respectable on its surface but also includes 11 unearned runs, eight of which came thanks to the extra-inning free-runner rule.

The Dodgers fell to 1-6 in extra-inning games, including losses in each of their last five, all in the last 11 days.

“The bottom line is that the little things across the board, we’re just not finishing, executing the way we’re capable of,” Roberts said. “It sounds like I’m on repeat, but we need to do a better job.”

Strong from the start

Walker Buehler delivered the best start of the series for the Dodgers with six strong innings. While his eight strikeouts caught our eye, maybe his most impressive moments of the outing were both times he shattered Jason Heyward’s bat.

Buehler had his fastball working in striking out five batters in the first two innings, and his only ball in play was a 63.9-mph grounder to second thanks to a broken bat.

Then, clinging to a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, with runners at second and third base, after striking out Contreras for the second out of the frame, Buehler got inside on Heyward again, this time destroying lumber while producing a harmless 61.6-mph grounder to the same spot, this time fielded by a shifted Corey Seager to end the threat and preserve the lead.

“I thought Walker was outstanding. He left a pitch up to [Jake] Marisnick and he put a good swing on it, but outside of that, he was dominant,” Roberts said. “Up to that point, we were in a great spot.”

Starting pitching hasn’t been much of a problem for the Dodgers all season, and even in this disastrous two-week stretch the rotation was still effective. Even with short outings by Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer on Tuesday, Dodgers starters had a 3.51 ERA in the 14-game stretch. Buehler’s game on Wednesday was the eighth quality start in that span, and the ninth time a Dodgers starter allowed no more than two runs.

“It’s easy to make a big thing of what’s going on, but we’re playing fine. We’ve been in these games,” Buehler said. “We just need to keep plugging away, and we gotta expect some of things will turn for us. We have the people in this clubhouse to get the big hit and make the big pitch.”

Wednesday particulars

Home runs: Max Muncy (5); Jake Marisnick (4)

WP — Alec Mills (2-0): 2 IP, 3 hits, 2 unearned runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

LP — Garrett Cleavinger (0-3): IP, 2 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers finally have a real day off on Thursday, and some get to sleep in their own beds since the next series is in Anaheim. Julio Urías starts the opener of the Freeway Series on Friday night. The Angels haven’t yet announced their weekend rotation, but the opener figures to go to either Griffin Canning or Dylan Bundy.