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Another short start & quiet Dodgers offense spell doom in the NLDS

Division Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Bobby Miller couldn’t get out of the second inning in his postseason debut, and his early deficit proved out of reach for a punchless Dodgers offense. The Diamondbacks prevailed 4-2 in Game 2, winning the first two games of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.

Miller had trouble finding the zone, with just 28 of his 52 pitches for strikes. And he only recorded five outs with those pitches. He walked two and allowed four hits, one a beautifully-executed bunt single, plus a stolen base.

After the first five batters reached against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, the first three Diamondbacks reached against Miller on Monday, and all three scored.

It’s the first time in Dodgers postseason history they’ve had consecutive actual starting pitchers fail to complete two innings. If we’re counting openers, Corey Knebel pitched one inning to start both Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS and Game 1 of the 2021 NLCS.

Kershaw and Miller made history, but not the good kind.

Either way, the Dodgers found themselves trailing by several runs before batting on Monday, which is no way to live.

Finding leverage

Brusdar Graterol breathed life into a dormant Dodger Stadium crowd, tasked with cleaning up the two runners on with two outs in the second inning after Miller was pulled. Graterol escaped that jam easily, then retired the side in order in the third inning, needing only nine pitches to record his first four outs.

Graterol was back out for the fourth inning as well, the first time in his major league career he’s pitched in parts of three innings, and the first time he’s done so professionally since May 19, 2019, when he was a starting pitcher for Double-A Pensacola in the Twins system.

After getting the first two outs of the fourth, Graterol walked No. 9 hitter Geraldo Perdomo on four pitches. Dave Roberts came with the hook to a chorus of boos, perhaps the fans not realizing Graterol’s two innings matched his major league high, and that this was his longest stretched-out appearance in four and a half years. Or maybe it was pent-up anger that the short reliever pitched as many innings as both Dodgers starting pitchers in this series combined.

But Graterol even helped in this scenario too, pumping up the crowd on his way back to the dugout.

The walk to Perdomo snapped a string of 31 batters in a row retired by Graterol, dating back to September 9. He’s the first Dodgers pitcher to throw a hidden perfect game since Evan Phillips in August 2022.

No, the home run Graterol allowed to James Outman in Wednesday’s intrasquad scrimmage did not count in these totals.

Fits and starts

The Dodgers offense began to trickle in during the middle innings, but also left a lot on the table. J.D. Martinez homered in the fourth inning for the first run of Zac Gallen, pulling the Dodgers to within a pair.

Two were on base with two out in the sixth with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman up, but that duo grounded into a force play and struck out on a knee-buckling knuckle curve from Gallen, respectively, to end the threat. Betts and Freeman have a combined one hit in 13 at-bats in this series.

“They are our two best players. They know that, we all know that,” Roberts said. “They understand their responsibilities and role on this ball club. For me, it’s just go out there, be themselves, and take good at-bats. That’s all they can control.”

They loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, and actually got the Arizona ace out of the game. Roberts pulled nearly all his levers during the inning, pinch-hitting Chris Taylor (who walked), Kiké Hernández (whose infield single brought home a run), and Kolten Wong, all with the platoon advantage. But the Dodgers scored only once in the inning, with Wong meekly grounding out to first base to end the frame.

“All night we had pitches to hit. We just couldn’t do much with them. Once we got to their ‘pen, we had an opportunity to cash in on one run. We had a chance for a big inning,” Roberts said. “There’s certainly fight, always has been. It comes down to results, too.”

Four runs and 10 hits is usually a winning combination for the Dodgers, who were 48-8 (.857) when reaching those numbers this season. The only problem is that’s their total for the first two games of the NLDS.

Arms race

Before the game, Roberts hinted he would be aggressive in using his high-leverage relievers.

“I do know we’ve got four guys in the pen that are raring and anxious to pitch that are a big reason why we are here tonight,” he said before the game. “To be able to use those guys tonight, I think, is of benefit.”

After Graterol pitched two innings, Ryan Brasier allowed a solo home run but only after retiring his first six batters faced. He pitched 2⅓ innings, and Joe Kelly got five outs. Evan Phillips got the final four outs. That quartet combined for 7⅓ innings with 9 strikeouts and only one run allowed.

“I give a lot of credit to out bullpen,” Freeman said. “That’s what we needed them to do. They gave us a chance and an opportunity, but we just didn’t do it.”

The bullpen kept the Dodgers in it, but the offense couldn’t give them a lead to work with.

NLDS Game 2 particulars

Home runs: J.D. Martinez (1); Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (1)

WP — Zac Gallen (2-0): 5⅓ IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

LP — Bobby Miller (0-1): 1⅔ IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Sv — Paul Sewald (3): 1 IP, 1 strikeout

Up next

The Dodgers try to keep their season alive at Chase Field in Phoenix in Game 3 on Wednesday night (6:07 p.m. PT, TBS). Lance Lynn gets the call to start, with the lowest possible bar to clear.

The last time the Dodgers lost the first two games of a postseason series at Dodger Stadium was in the 1996 NLDS against Atlanta. They were swept in three games.