The 10-game winning streak of the Dodgers, a stretch of baseball that vaulted the club to the top of the National League West, fizzled out Monday evening. The pitching staff of the Angels snuffed out their crosstown rivals in a 4-0 victory at Dodger Stadium in the first game of the Freeway Series.
As the Dodgers took flight last week, the Angels kept grinding toward wild-card contention. The club went 4-2 on the road against the Yankees and the Red Sox. Back home in California, they silenced the Dodgers — far from an easy task — behind a strong outing by starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco.
Both starters defied their recent history. Making his 10th start of the season, Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill reached the sixth inning for the first time in 2017. He logged seven innings in all. The Angels tagged him for three runs, two of them courtesy of a two-out single by third baseman Yunel Escobar in the third inning. A solo home run by catcher Martin Maldonado off Dodgers reliever Sergio Romo in the ninth padded the lead.
For only the fourth time in 16 starts, Nolasco avoided allowing a home run. He defused the sport's most potent offense in recent weeks. A 17-game streak of games with at least one homer ended for the Dodgers. Nolasco scattered five hits as he pitched into the seventh.
"That's a strong 61/3 against a team that's been swinging the bat well," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The only recourse for the Dodgers was to literally hit the ball at him. Nolasco departed with one out in the seventh after Yasiel Puig and Enrique Hernandez lined hits off his legs.
The two hits placed two runners in scoring position with one out. With Corey Seager nursing a hamstring strain, recent call-up Mike Freeman hit in place of Hill for the Dodgers. Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian struck him out on three pitches. The last two were sliders at the shins. To dispel the threat, Bedrosian froze Chase Utley with 95-mph fastball down the middle for the third out.
Before Monday, the Dodgers had lost only once in their previous 17 games. The defeat hung on Hill's shoulders, after he gave up seven runs in Cleveland on June 15. Hill rescued himself from a potential demotion to the bullpen in his next outing, leaning on a cut fastball to pacify the Mets.
Hill kept the cutter in his holster during a scoreless first inning against the Angels. In between starts, he had worked to streamline his delivery, operating out of a modified windup so he could be maintain his balance as he lunged toward the plate. Hill was happy with the results Monday.
"It actually felt like I was myself again," he said.
In Nolasco, the Angels countered with the most homer-prone pitcher in baseball. Only Reds veteran Bronson Arroyo had allowed as many home runs as Nolasco had heading into Monday. Arroyo served up No. 23 to the Dodgers on June 18. After the game, Arroyo landed on the disabled list and pondered retirement.
Nolasco tiptoed into a crisis in the bottom of the first. Utley thumped a leadoff double. Nolasco walked rookie phenom Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal. Nolasco recovered as he faced Joc Pederson. After spotting a fastball for a strike, he snapped off two sliders that Pederson swung through to strand all three runners.
Nolasco did not wither before the might of the Dodgers. Instead he ignited the Angels' first rally of the night, leading off the third inning with a five-pitch walk. He took second after second baseman Utley could not handle a well-struck grounder by outfielder Cameron Maybin. When Nolasco was erased by a fielder's choice, the Angels benefited from a faster lead runner.
With Maybin at second and outfielder Kole Calhoun at first, the Angels executed a double steal. The thievery proved crucial soon after, when Escobar splashed a single at the feet of Puig in right field. Both runners scored on the two-out hit.
The Angels tacked on another run in the third. Andrelton Simmons smashed a 1-0 fastball off the center-field wall for a triple, the ball outpacing Pederson's route to it, and Danny Espinosa lifted a sacrifice fly to left on an 0-2 fastball.
After Simmons' triple, Hill retired the next 10 batters he faced. He managed to complete the seventh after grazing Espinosa with a cutter to put a runner on base. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was heartened by Hill's performance, even in a loss.
"We lost a baseball game tonight," Roberts said. "But the biggest win is for Rich to give us seven innings and pitch the way that 2016 Rich threw the baseball."