The Dodgers only have one more road game left on the schedule: Sunday’s finale in Phoenix. To play again on the road in 2021, they have to earn it, either by winning or tying the division or winning the wild card game. They’ll have to play better than they did on Saturday or on the current road trip that serves as a microcosm of the season.
On Saturday they lost 7-2 to the Diamondbacks, flummoxed by Zac Gallen’s fastball-changeup combo. Arizona’s ace right-hander struck out eight in his six innings, allowing only a solo home run in his final frame, by Trea Turner, one of three hits off Gallen.
“Tonight we just couldn’t figure out Gallen,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He came out and stuck it to us. We got behind early, and couldn’t recover.”
Turner added another solo home run in the ninth inning, cutting the deficit to five.
The Dodgers now find themselves two games back in the National League West with seven to play, after the Giants’ road win over Rockies.
Through eight games on the road trip the Dodgers are averaging 4.63 runs scored, pretty much in line with their post-All-Star-break 4.75 average. But they’re slugging just .382 on the trip through hitter-friendly parks in Cincinnati, Denver, and Phoenix. For a team that is still leading the National League with 5.03 runs scored per game on the season, it’s below expectations.
It doesn’t help that AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor, two of the mainstays of the lineup all season, are both nursing injuries. Pollock, who doubled twice Thursday and homered Friday in his first two starts back after a hamstring strain, didn’t start on Saturday. Chris Taylor, who’s been dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck for two weeks, made his third start in the last 11 games. They aren’t necessarily in a left field platoon, but both are getting ample rest until fully recovered.
“They are both valuable to our ball club being in there, starting or off the bench. Most importantly, we’ve got to keep them both healthy,” Roberts said. “Getting AJ out of games, managing CT starts and things like that will be beneficial.”
Getting Taylor hitting again will help too. He was 1-for-3 on Saturday, and is hitting .190/.257/.307 since the beginning of August.
The Dodgers needed more offense on Saturday because the pitching and defense combination wasn’t particularly sharp. Clayton Kershaw allowed leadoff home runs in the first and second inning, his first long balls allowed since returning from the injured list.
“A couple of bad pitches early,” Kershaw said. “You miss your spots sometimes. Hopefully they keep it in the ballpark, but it didn’t happen tonight, so yeah, it put us in a hole early.”
Behind Kershaw, the Dodgers committed two errors, with Corey Seager and Justin Turner each throwing balls away. Turner’s led directly to a run in the fourth inning. Kershaw allowed another run in the fifth to end his night earlier than planned, thanks to three singles, though the frame was likely extended by Justin Turner throwing to second base instead of first on a would-be double play.
“It wasn’t a well-played game tonight,” Roberts said.
Kershaw was done after just 4⅓ frames, giving Dodgers starters an ugly 7.13 ERA over 24 innings in the last full time through the rotation.
“There were a few good throws in there, but obviously overall it wasn’t great,” Kershaw said.
After Kershaw left, Arizona tacked on a run against David Price and two more against Evan Phillips, each pitching for just the third time in the last three weeks. Well, at least most of the high-leverage relievers got a day of rest.
With one game remaining on the road trip, the Dodgers are 5-3. That’s a 101-win pace over the course of a season. But just like the current NL West standings, sometimes that isn’t good enough.
“Obviously we’d like to have this one back, but we have to move on,” Trea Turner said. “Tomorrow’s a new day, an early game. The only game we can win on our schedule is the next one, so that’s the one to focus on.”
Home runs: Trea Turner 2 (24); Ketel Marte (13), Carson Kelly (13)
WP — Zac Gallen (3-10): 6 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
LP — Clayton Kershaw (10-8): 4⅓ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Julio Urías starts the final road game of the regular season on Sunday (1:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with right-hander Humberto Mejia starting on the mound for Arizona.