On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, after fouling off seven consecutive sinkers, Yasiel Puig manipulated his bat so that the barrel connected with the baseball. The exit velocity clocked at 111.8 mph, hard enough to clear the loaded bases in front of him and drag the Dodgers within a run of their last-place hosts. A hit might salvage the night.
The Dodgers had stumbled through this game much like they have stumbled through this season. There was little good fortune awaiting them. The liner off Puig’s bat sizzled into the glove of Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who flipped the baseball to second base to end the seventh inning of a 10-6 Dodgers loss Monday.
“I tried my best to hit it in the air, and I hit it good,” Puig said. “But the third baseman was right there.”
So it went. Unable to build on any momentum created over the weekend at Coors Field, the Dodgers fell to the Reds for the fifth time in five games this season. The outcome resembled the team’s recent play at Dodger Stadium, when the Dodgers took three of four games from Arizona before giving away a series to the New York Mets soon after.
The blame for Monday belonged with the pitchers. Alex Wood (8-7) could not finish the fourth inning. He matched a season high with seven runs given up. The team’s defense let him down, but Wood deserved the brunt of the blame for his outing. He dumped the Dodgers in a four-run hole in the first inning and dug deeper as the game progressed.
“The nights where you don’t have anything aren’t very fun,” Wood said. “You try to battle and make it through it, but this isn’t a place or a lineup where you come and not be sharp and expect to do well.”
From there, the offense eventually picked up steam. They were offset by the disastrous outing from Wood and a meltdown by Ryan Madson in the sixth inning. Madson gave up three runs before the Dodgers mounted a rally in the seventh. After Justin Turner and Manny Machado scored, the Dodgers loaded the bases as Puig faced Jared Hughes (4-3). The double play left Puig stunned, standing near the on-deck circle staring at third base.
Earlier in the season, the Reds helped the Dodgers reach their 2018 nadir. Cincinnati swept a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in May, igniting a six-game losing streak that dropped the Dodgers to 10 games below .500. The team recovered to re-enter the division race, but those losses may prove pivotal.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t expect that from our club, to be 0-5 against anyone,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The Reds dwell in the basement of the National League Central, but they do employ three excellent hitters: first baseman Joey Votto, second baseman Scooter Gennett and Suarez. Votto and Gennett hounded Wood in the first inning as the Reds pulled ahead by four runs.
Wood laid his own tinder. He walked the first batter he faced, Billy Hamilton, an outfielder with blazing speed and a .297 on-base percentage. Wood drilled former teammate Jose Peraza with a 90-mph fastball to put two runners aboard. Votto brought both home by ripping a changeup off the top of the right-field wall for a double.
“You just try to grind through it and pitch,” Wood said. “Tonight, unfortunately, it just didn’t go my way.”
Two batters later, Gennett visited the same area. He pounded a changeup off the wall for a run-scoring single. A single by outfielder Phillip Ervin added to the traffic.
With two outs, Wood induced a grounder off the bat of outfielder Brandon Dixon. The ball rolled into shortstop Machado’s glove. An accurate throw to first base would have ended the inning. Machado skipped the ball past David Freese instead, handing Cincinnati a fourth run.
“We got put behind early,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers scratched together a run in the third inning against starter Cody Reed. A leadoff walk by Chris Taylor was followed by a single from Machado and a run-scoring single from Matt Kemp. The hit by Kemp put runners at the corners with one out.
If you have followed the Dodgers in 2018, you can guess what happened next: Freese struck out and Enrique Hernandez grounded out to strand both runners. Hernandez had struck out to leave the bases loaded in the first inning. Through three innings, the Dodgers had already stranded five runners.
Wood did not allow the Dodgers to generate momentum. He fed Suarez a changeup to start the third inning. Suarez boomed a shot as Wood’s shoulders slumped in response.
“I just didn’t think he was sharp tonight,” Roberts said. “And they were taking good swings.”
Taylor trimmed the deficit to two runs in the fourth. He came to the plate with two outs, after Brian Dozier snapped an 0-for-26 slump with a double. Taylor powered a first-pitch, 92-mph fastball into the seats in right-center field for a two-run homer.
Once more Wood handed runs back to the hosts. Hamilton dumped a changeup into left field and hustled for a leadoff double. Two pitches later, Peraza singled into left field. Hamilton rounded third base and headed home. The throw from Taylor beat Hamilton to the plate. And Yasmani Grandal managed to secure the baseball in his glove. Securing the out was another story.
Grandal reached to tag Hamilton. The runner hesitated near the plate to avoid contact. Grandal swiped at Hamilton, which jarred the baseball loose. Hamilton touched the plate as the baseball bounced toward the backstop.
Wood could not finish the inning. He struck out Votto before Suarez was intentionally walked. There was nowhere to put Gennett, so Wood tried to finish him off with an 0-and-2 changeup. The pitch nipped at Gennett’s shins, but he still stroked a run-scoring single past the outstretched glove of Dozier. Roberts intervened to remove Wood moments later.
The Dodgers crept a run closer in the sixth. Grandal crushed a fastball from Michael Lorenzen for a solo shot. The cycle from earlier in the game repeated itself: When the Dodgers scored, their pitcher served up hits to the Reds immediately.
Madson gave up a single to Peraza to start the sixth. Peraza stole second and third. He scored on a single by Gennett. After Ervin doubled, catcher Tucker Barnhart rolled a two-run single up the middle to put Cincinnati up by six runs.
A fifth loss in a row to this last-place team would soon follow.