A gloomy, overcast afternoon in Dodger Stadium fit the pregame mood Wednesday. Andrew Toles, the leadoff man who helped spark the team's recent offensive surge, was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will undergo season-ending surgery in about two weeks.
"It's disappointing," Toles, on crutches, said outside the clubhouse. "I was swinging it pretty good, feeling good, playing pretty good defense, and it all kind of came to a halt."
Toles, 24, was injured in the seventh inning Tuesday night when, in an effort to preserve Julio Urias' no-hit bid, he sprinted into the left-field corner and lunged for Andrew McCutchen's ground-rule double.
Toles tried to avoid a collision with the low wall by sliding on the warning track. He jammed his right knee awkwardly into the ground and was pulled from the game, somehow managing to walk off the field.
Initial X-rays were negative. An MRI test revealed the extent of the damage. With an anticipated rehabilitation time of six to seven months, Toles is expected to make a full recovery by spring training in 2018.
"I'm frustrated for all of us, but mostly for Andrew," manager Dave Roberts said. "He's such a great young man, a big part of what we're trying to do, and he adds so much to our club. For this unfortunate thing to happen, it's disappointing."
Toles was batting .196 on April 26, but his hot streak over the past two weeks mirrored that of the Dodgers, who won nine of 11 games entering Wednesday.
Toles hit .375 (15 for 40) with a 1.005 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs in the span to bump his season average to .271 and OPS to .772. He was tied for second on the team with five home runs.
"You lose your leadoff guy, a guy who can play all three outfield spots and who runs well," shortstop Corey Seager said of Toles. "It's a big blow."
To Toles, it's another obstacle to overcome. He was dismissed from the University of Tennessee baseball team as a sophomore in 2011. After being named Tampa Bay's minor league player of the year in 2013, he missed two months of the 2014 season because of "personal issues" and was released in March 2015.
Toles sat out the 2015 season, spending two weeks working at a grocery store in his native Georgia, and signed with the Dodgers that September. He reached the big leagues for the first time last July.
"It helps knowing that it gets better, that it's not the end of the world," Toles said. "I want to stay positive. There's no sense in being distraught, because it's sports, injuries happen. … We've got other dudes who can play. It's no big deal."
Roberts said Joc Pederson (against right-handed starters) and Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor (against left-handers) will share the leadoff spot. Hot-hitting rookie Cody Bellinger will man left field, with Chase Utley and Scott Van Slyke, who was recalled from triple A, sharing first base.
The Dodgers also recalled outfielder Brett Eibner from triple A and placed reliever Adam Liberatore (groin injury) on the 10-day disabled list.
On Tuesday, Roberts said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was on a "slow program" in his rehabilitation from right elbow and back injuries. Those plans changed Wednesday. Gonzalez swung in the cages, and Roberts said the veteran could be activated by the middle of next week.
"The slow program got a little quicker," Roberts said. "We were gonna take the calendar out of it, and if there was some unforeseen injury, we'd speed it up. Unfortunately, that's where we're at. Adrian is gonna ramp it up a little bit."
Off the hook
McCutchen's double spared Roberts from another potentially hand-wringing decision, to pull Urias from a no-hitter like he did with Ross Stripling and Rich Hill in 2016.
Urias, a 20-year-old left-hander, started the seventh inning having thrown 83 pitches. Roberts did not want Urias to throw more than 110 pitches, but he didn't want to remove Urias, especially with a ballpark promotion on the pitcher's side.
"I was figuring out, Mexican Heritage Night, pitch count starting to creep up there, and I've got to take this young kid out of a no-hitter?" Roberts said. "I think 45,000 fans would have really come down on me."
Rich Hill's second rehabilitation start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga went much better than the first. The Dodgers left-hander, sidelined by a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, threw five no-hit innings at San Jose Wednesday night, striking out three and walking three. Of his 68 pitches, 35 were strikes. Hill, who could return to the rotation next week, recorded only two outs and threw 29 pitches in his first start last week. Brandon McCarthy (sore left shoulder) threw a four-inning, 60-pitch simulated game Wednesday. Roberts said the right-hander will be slotted into the rotation Monday night in San Francisco.