LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers are expected to face left-handed starting pitchers three times in the first four games of the homestand. They had trouble solving the first southpaw, as Justin Steele delivered the best start of the season to date against Los Angeles in the Cubs’ 8-2 win on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Steele struck out eight in seven innings, the longest start of the season against the Dodgers. Entering Friday, opposing starters had a 5.05 ERA against Los Angeles, averaging 4.79 innings.
The Dodgers did score twice off Steele, thanks to solo home runs by Chris Taylor in the third inning and Max Muncy in the seventh. The latter was the fifth home run in three starts this week for Muncy, whose six home runs on the season ties him for the major league lead.
Steele, who matched his career high by pitching seven innings for the fourth time, allowed only one other hit, a single. The left-hander has a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings for the Cubs this season.
“We couldn’t muster anything. We got one base hit and a couple homers,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But we didn’t threaten all night.”
A short walk spoiled
A one-run game after seven innings was exacerbated in the eighth, when Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki hit back-to-back home runs off reliever Andre Jackson, who later in the inning allowed another solo shot to Patrick Wisdom. Jackson is the first Dodgers reliever to allow three home runs in an inning since Terry Mullholland on April 3, 2002.
“Andre’s been throwing the baseball well, but he just didn’t make good pitches,” Roberts said.
Jackson allowed another solo shot in the ninth, the first Dodgers reliever to allow four home runs in a game since Johnny Klippstein in 1958. Jackson allowed five runs on six hits in his two innings to finish out the game.
Roberts suggested Jackson may have been tipping his pitches, which Jackson said was worth looking into.
“Obviously it wasn’t my best stuff,” Jackson said. “It comes in waves. Maybe some tipping in there, but I definitely left a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate. I’m not sure what it is yet.”
Some things change, some stay the same
Noah Syndergaard got through six innings for the second time in three starts, but was dinged by single runs in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. Included among them was Cody Bellinger, who doubled to lead off the fourth inning in his return to Dodger Stadium, then scored on a pair of groundouts.
Anyone who gets on base is a threat to steal against Syndergaard, including catcher Yan Gomes, who followed up his third-inning single with such a great jump that the play at second wasn’t particularly close. It was the 35-year-old Gomes’ eighth career stolen base, in 12 seasons.
Ian Happ followed with a two-out ground rule double that wouldn’t have scored Gomes from first base, but it did from second base. Gomes scored in more traditional fashion, with a home run in the fifth. He would homer again.
Syndergaard allowed a two-out double steal in the fifth inning, but was able to escape any further damage.
Syndergaard has allowed 175 career stolen bases in 149 career starts, and in each of his last four full seasons (2016, 2018, 2019, and 2022) he led the majors in steals allowed by a wide margin. So far this year Syndergaard doesn’t lead the league but he’s allowed six steals in his three starts without a caught stealing, most on the team.
The stolen bases certainly don’t help, nor did Syndergaard topping out at 92.8 mph on Friday. But he did induce a season-high 16 swinging strikes against the Cubs and struck out nine in his six innings, finishing off eight of the nine strikeouts on his changeup.
Home runs: Chris Taylor (3), Max Muncy (6); Yan Gomes 2 (3), Ian Happ (2), Seiya Suzuki (1), Patrick Wisdom (4)
WP — Justin Steele (2-0): 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeout
LP — Noah Syndergaard (0-2): 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
The Dodgers and Cubs play an hour earlier on Saturday night (6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with pregame ceremonies for Jackie Robinson Day and the 50th anniversary of the Jackie Robinson foundation. Michael Grove tries to turn things around on the mound on Saturday, facing right-hander Jameson Taillon.