Shoddy defense and untimely hitting sent the Dodgers to the fourth loss to a last-place team in five tries this week. On Friday, the Diamondbacks took advantage in a 5-2 win at Dodger Stadium.
Two Dodgers errors each led to runs in the series opener, giving the team nine errors in the last six games. But it wasn’t just errors. A ground ball up the middle to Gavin Lux turned into a single when his flip to second base for the attempted force out could have been timed with a sun dial.
Taylor Widener returned for Arizona after missing six weeks with a groin strain, and limited the Dodgers to just one hit in 4⅓ innings, striking out five. Then the D-backs bullpen, with the second-worst ERA and third-worst FIP in baseball, held the Dodgers to just two hits and one run the rest of the way.
Arizona’s win was just its second road triumph in the last 30 games away from home.
Both Dodgers runs were scored by AJ Pollock, who homered in the third inning, then doubled to left in the seventh and advanced on two groundouts. Los Angeles was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
LA’s 115 pitches seen was their fewest in a nine-inning game this season.
“When you’re not scoring runs consistently, things certainly get more magnified,” manager Dave Roberts said.
But even with all that, the Dodgers were still within a run entering the ninth, when the stretching of the bullpen depth chart — eight relievers added in the last eight days — exacted its cost.
Edwin Uceta, who was warming up along with Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the eighth, needed 29 pitches to record only two outs, and the last of his three walks forced home an insurance run. Jake Reed, the sidearming 28-year-old who made his major league debut on Tuesday, followed with a four-pitch walk of his own to bring home another.
“[Jansen] was going to come in in a tie or a lead,” Roberts said. “When you have one half-inning left on the offensive side, when you haven’t swung the bat that well all night, to bring Kenley in, who’s been used a lot recently, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
A minus game indeed.
Building back up
David Price weaved his way through traffic in each of his three innings, but managed to escape unharmed. Arizona loaded the bases in the first and put six runners on base against Price on the night, but the Diamondbacks were 0-for-4 with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position against him.
Price was also likely helped by a fortuitous bounce in the first inning, when Christian Walker’s two-out double bounced over the left field wall, forcing Josh Rojas to hold at third base. Both were stranded in the inning.
Three innings and 51 pitches are season highs for Price, who will be progressively stretched out over his next few starts. Once he eventually gets to five innings, it will be roughly two years since he last did so, a six-inning start for Boston on July 24, 2019.
“Starting is something I’ve done for a very long time now,” Price said. “But I enjoyed the bullpen as well. Whatever is asked of me moving forward, I’m all for it.”
He’s been effective in relatively short stints this season. Since returning from the injured list on May 17, Price has a 2.14 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 21 innings, with 20 strikeouts and five walks.
Tough luck debut
Darien Nuñez is the second 28-year-old Dodgers pitcher this week to make his major league debut. The left-hander was impressive in his two innings, especially with a changeup that Orel Hershiser described as “elite” on the SportsNet LA broadcast.
Nuñez got five whiffs on the changeup, and even had Eduardo Escobar extolling the virtues of the pitch in the Diamondbacks dugout. But that was after Escobar hit a Nuñez fastball just over the short wall in right field for a two-run home run, cashing in an error by third baseman Justin Turner earlier in the frame.
Two runs (one earned) were charged to Nuñez’s ledger in his two innings, enough to pin him with the loss, but he also struck out three of his eight batters faced.
Home runs: AJ Pollock (10); Eduardo Escobar (20)
WP — Brett de Geus (1-0): 2 up, 2 down
LP — Darien Nuñez (0-1): 2 IP, 1 hit, 2 runs (1 earned), 3 strikeouts
Sv — Joakim Soria (3): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
The Dodgers will start a Vanderbilt pitcher for a second straight game on Saturday, with Walker Buehler going in the middle game of the series (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network). Left-hander Caleb Smith starts for Arizona, like the shining beacon that is the Krispy Kreme light, only instead of fresh donuts it means Albert Pujols will start at first base.