A bevy of chances against a horde of Giants pitchers wasn’t enough for Dodgers bats to shake off the doldrums, dropping their second game in a row in San Francisco. This one was 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Oracle Park, with the Giants able to frustratingly keep the Dodgers at arm’s length all game.
The Dodgers threatened for most of the day, but almost only in a nominal sense, like a hitting streak with a string of 1-for-5 games. On Saturday, they reached base in every inning, leaving an agonizing trial of missed opportunities in their wake.
The first nine hits for the Dodgers on Saturday were singles. Only one of those came with a runner in scoring position, and naturally that was an infield single that couldn’t bring home the run.
Cody Bellinger broke that string with an automatic double over the left field wall in the eighth, halving the Dodgers’ two-run deficit with their first run of the game (spoiling a great headline in the process). It sent them up with a prime opportunity to at least tie the game, with runners on second and third with one out. Chris Taylor walked against San Francisco right-hander Camilo Doval to load the bases.
But other than the walk, the Dodgers had as much trouble getting the bat on the ball against Doval as he did hearing the pitch calls from his catcher via PitchCom. In between cupping his glove over his ear in between several pitches, Doval worked around a 2-0 count to strike out Gavin Lux, and overcame a 3-0 count to strike out Mookie Betts. All six strikes to Lux and Betts were sliders from Doval, four swinging.
Because the Dodgers actually plated a run in the eighth made that their most compelling rally of the day. But three other squandered chances stood out.
With two on and two out in the fourth inning against Tyler Rogers, Taylor’s 97-mph smash was hit right to first baseman Darin Ruf to end the threat.
A golden opportunity came in the seventh, when a walk and two singles against Zach Littell loaded the bases with nobody out. It was an ideal situation with Freddie Freeman up, even more so when he worked the count to 3-1. But Jarlín García recovered to strike him out, then got Trea Turner to ground into a double play to somehow end the inning without plating a run.
The Dodgers had the most advantageous base-out situation in the sport, and two of their best three hitters due up (the other, Betts, was on first base). But after the favorable count on Freeman, it took just three pitches from García to extinguish any semblance of a flame.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers finally found a way to bring home a run with bases loaded and nobody out. Only it came courtesy of Craig Kimbrel, whose connection to the strike zone was intermittent at best. At one point Kimbrel threw eight consecutive balls, and his wild pitch with Brandon Crawford batting. Dave Roberts argued that the ball hit Crawford’s foot, which would have resulted in a dead ball and no run scoring, but the play did not get review.
Kimbrel retired only one of his four batters faced, and only seven of his 18 pitches were strikes. It’s a miracle he only allowed one run.
That insurance run loomed large when Freeman homered off fellow left-hander José Álvarez to open the ninth inning. That pulled the Dodgers within a run, and Trea Turner singled to put the tying run on with nobody out. Pinch-hitter Hanser Alberto’s infield singled with two outs moved Turner into scoring position.
Turner and Alberto were stranded, the 13th and 14th runners left on base by the Dodgers on Saturday.
This is a rough road trip offensively, especially when applying the inverse of “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” The Dodgers scored 11 runs in Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the White Sox, but in the other four games have scored a combined eight runs.
One big inning
In his first game back off the injured list, and with only one rehab start under his belt, Clayton Kershaw’s odometer was capped on Saturday. His second inning depleted most of his reserves, with a season-high 31 pitches in the frame, only the third time this year Kershaw has reached even 20 pitches in an inning.
Kershaw’s slider is his bread and butter, and he got seven swings and misses on the pitch, including finishing off two of his four strikeouts. Compare that to his fastball, on which he missed no bats in 33 pitches.
But two of his three hits allowed were on sliders, including both run-scoring plays. Thairo Estrada took Kershaw deep to left field in the second inning, and later in the frame rookie outfielder Luis González singled home Brandon Crawford, who walked twice against Kershaw.
Two walks count as extraordinarily wild for Kershaw, who had three walks in 30 innings on the season entering Saturday. After his four innings in this one, Kershaw’s 3.9-percent walk rate ranks ninth-lowest among the 158 major league pitchers with at least 30 innings this season.
Home run: Freddie Freeman (5); Thairo Estrada (4)
WP — Tyler Rogers (1-2): 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk
LP — Clayton Kershaw (4-1): 4 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Sv — José Álvarez (1): 1 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 strikeout
The road trip ends on Sunday (1:05 p.m., SportsNet LA), with Julio Urías on the mound for the Dodgers against left-hander Carlos Rodón for San Francisco.