LOS ANGELES — After three games over the weekend with mostly good pitching but bad hitting, the Dodgers broke out offensively on Monday but didn’t have the pitching to back it, falling to the Mets 8-6 in the series opener at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers fall to 8-9, their first time under .500 since starting 2022 by losing two of their first three games.
Looking only at score changes at the end of half-innings, the Dodgers led three times Monday and the Mets lead three times. It was tied once. But New York led when it counted, at the end, thanks to big innings against Dodgers starter Dustin May and an increasingly shaky LA bullpen.
The Mets took the lead for good with a three-run the seventh. Alex Vesia allowed three singles to open the inning, loading the bases with nobody out, the last hit by Starling Marte, a right-handed batter.
Phil Bickford entered an impossible situation, then turned up the weirdness factor of the game with a balk on his first pitch, bringing home the tying run. A ground out and a single plated two more runners, giving the Mets the lead. All three runs were charged to Vesia, who has allowed 15 hits in 31 batters faced this season, and seven runs in five innings.
Bickford wasn’t much better, walking two after the run-scoring single to load the bases again. But left-hander Justin Bruihl, just called up on Monday after a stellar start to the season in Triple-A, got rookie Brett Baty to fly out to stop the bleeding.
The Dodgers bullpen has a 4.94 ERA on the season in 54⅔ innings, allowing a .495 slugging percentage.
“Right now, we have a handful of guys, half the guys are in a good spot, and some other guys trying to figure it out,” manager Dave Roberts said. “These are our guys, and they have a track record so we’ve got to keep throwing them out there, but they’ve got to perform.”
Finding their groove
The Dodgers offense was alive on Monday, matching their weekend total of six runs in one game. Freddie Freeman led the way with a solo home run in the first inning and a two-run shot in the fifth off Mets starter David Peterson.
Freeman now has 18 two-home-run games in his career, though that was his first with the Dodgers. It was his first since September 10, 2020 with the Braves.
In the bottom of the sixth, Max Muncy crushed a ball 433 feet into the right field pavilion for his sixth home run in his last seven games. If you didn’t see the ball land, nobody could blame you, as the person in charge of the new Dodger Stadium lights had an itchy trigger finger making the ballpark dark super early.
James Outman narrowly missed a two-run game-tying home run in the eighth, but his ball got stuck in the video board part of the right field wall. Instead of Freeman scoring from first on a regular double, it was ruled a ground-rule double, keeping Freeman at third and Outman at second.
Muncy popped out and Miguel Vargas struck out to end the threat.
“We needed one more hit, and just didn’t get it,” Freeman said. “It feels like the story of the first two weeks of the season”
A tale of two seasons — last year when the Dodgers scored at least six runs, they were 64-3 (.955). This year they are 5-3 (.625) in such games.
Weird, wild stuff
May was all over the place on Monday, but not necessarily in his pitching. He didn’t walk anyone and threw 71 percent of his pitches for strikes. But he also contorted or fell off the mound a few times, made a sprawling tag attempt up the first base line but couldn’t field the ball cleanly while doing so, and May also spun and threw wildly to second base, providing us with one of the wilder still shots of the season to date.
Vargas, behind Miguel Rojas, actually caught this ball, and got an out at second base.
The most excellent backing up of the bag that I've ever seen pic.twitter.com/KLiQun5XBz— Michael Clair (@michaelsclair) April 18, 2023
With so many pitches in the strike zone, May only got six swinging strikes and one strikeout, while the Mets clipped him for eight hits and five runs in 5⅔ innings.
“Dustin had good stuff,” Roberts said. “I think the execution and putting guys away, we couldn’t do that tonight.”
“I was throwing balls in the strike zone, and they were hitting little shots in the infield, stuff like that and getting on base,” May said. “I need to make better quality throws in those scenarios, and I didn’t.”
May walked off the mound in a tie game in the sixth with the go-ahead run on second, but the lefty Vesia got the last out of the frame to escape any damage. But Vesia created his own damage in the seventh.
The Dodgers’ other catcher named Austin made his debut with the team on Monday, and in Austin Wynns’ first at-bat he doubled to the gap in right center to bring home two runs in the second inning, giving his new team the lead.
Wynns in the fifth inning threw out Starling Marte trying to steal second base, matching the total runners caught stealing by Dodgers catchers in the first 16 games of the season. Will Smith and Austin Barnes — and obviously the Dodgers pitchers — allowed 23 steals in those games.
Home runs: Freddie Freeman 2 (3), Max Muncy (7); Daniel Vogelbach (1)
WP — David Peterson (1-2): 6 IP, 7 hits, 6 runs, 6 strikeouts
LP — Alex Vesia (0-2): ⅓ IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Sv — David Robertson (5): 1 IP, zeroes
The Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw to the mound on Tuesday night (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, TBS) for his first crack at career win No. 200. Right-hander Tylor Megill starts for New York. Bob Costas and Jeff Francoeur will call the TBS broadcast, which won’t be available in either team’s local markets.