Citi Field saw a close series for all three days. The Dodgers made a few mistakes in the series finale, helping the Mets to a frustrating 5-3 loss on Thursday evening in New York.
In an exceedingly tight series, the little things can get amplified, sometimes making baseball a game of inches. A ranging Gavin Lux couldn’t get to a slow ground ball to second base in enough time to get Starling Marte to open the sixth inning. Francisco Lindor cashed in the close play with an RBI double, then stole third base on a throw from catcher Will Smith that beat him, only to have Max Muncy field the ball in front of the bag, without enough room to tag Lindor.
Seven pitches later, Darin Ruf flied to the warning track in left, more than deep enough to bring home Lindor. Two close plays led to two runs against Chris Martin, turning a one-run Dodgers advantage into a one-run deficit.
The Mets tacked on in the seventh thanks to three straight two-out hits. The second of those hits was an easy pop fly by Brandon Nimmo to shallow right field. It was Lux’s ball until it wasn’t, and both he and Mookie Betts hesitated, both watching a .090 expected batting average become 1.000. That drove in one insurance run, and Starling Marte singled home Nimmo for another.
Those runs became extra maddening in the eighth inning, when the Dodgers put two runners on against closer extraordinaire Edwin Díaz, entering in a non-save situation against the middle of the batting order. Both Max Muncy and Justin Turner had designs on a game-tying, three-run home run, but both of their fly balls fell into the glove of a waiting Nimmo on the warning track. No leaping needed, this time.
Clayton Kershaw was a bit off kilter in his first major league inning in four weeks, and walked three of his first six batters. The last of those free passes, on five pitches to Mark Canha, brought home a run, just the seventh bases-loaded walk of Kershaw’s career, and the first since August 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh.
Thursday saw Kershaw walk three batters in an inning for the first time since Game 1 of the 2015 NLDS, also against the Mets. This was just Kershaw’s second start out of 16 in which he walked more than two, entering the day with a 4.5-percent walk rate, 11th-lowest among major league pitchers with at least 80 innings.
Kershaw threw 15 pitches out of the strike zone in the first and only missed two bats, but he did induce a pair of popups, including one by Jeff McNeil to escape further damage in the opening frame.
Then came the command.
Kershaw struck out two batters in each of his next three innings, and didn’t allow a thing after the walk to Canha. Even with the 25-pitch first inning, Kershaw needed only 74 pitches to get through five innings, thanks to retiring his final 13 batters in a row. He got thirteen swinging strikes, including eight off the slider, finishing off four of his six strikeouts with his best pitch.
A running theme
The Dodgers’ runs against Mets starter Chris Bassitt also come out of a bases-loaded situation, after Justin Turner doubled and Lux singled with one out in the second. Chris Taylor dropped a fly ball single into right field that scored Turner and Lux. Trayce Thompson, who walked, got such a great jump on the hit that he was closely behind Lux rounding third base.
Dino Ebel was trying to thread the needle of sending Lux home while holding Thompson, but in the confusion, Thompson was a dead duck at the plate.
The Dodgers lost on the margins in this one, and they head home having dropped back-to-back games for the first time in 37 days.
Home runs: none
WP — Chris Bassitt (12-7): 6 IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP — Chris Martin (4-1): 1 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 strikeout
Sv — Adam Ottavino (3): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
The road trip now complete, the Dodgers return home to host the Padres at Dodger Stadium. Dustin May starts the opener on Friday night (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with old friend Yu Darvish pitching for San Diego.