At the various low points of the Dodgers’ season, the team’s veteran players have often called for patience.
Clayton Kershaw wanted to see something else Sunday.
With the Dodgers swept by the Houston Astros in a three-game series and extending their losing streak to a season-long five games, Kershaw implored for a shift in the team’s mentality.
“I hope we’re panicking a little bit,” he said. “I think panic’s a good thing, to a certain extent.”
Kershaw limited the Astros to one run over eight innings, but the Dodgers dropped a 3-2 decision, as Kenley Jansen blew a save in the ninth and Chris Hatcher served up a walk-off home run to Jason Castro in the 10th.
With 39 games remaining in the regular season, the Dodgers’ lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants was down to one game. The Giants were scheduled to complete a three-game series in Pittsburgh that night.
“There need to be a sense of urgency, maybe that’s better to say than panic,” Kershaw said. “I feel like we have to start playing like that. Not to say we haven’t, but it’s definitely time to start thinking that way.”
Kershaw lowered his earned-run average to 2.29, but the Dodgers are only 13-12 when he starts.
The previous night, the Dodgers lost a game started by Zack Greinke.
“The way that we’re lined up right now, when you have two of the best pitchers in baseball, you’ve got to take advantage when they’re on the mound,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “They both threw amazing in this series. They gave us more than enough of an opportunity to win games, and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Dodgers will resume play Tuesday, when they open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The series will conclude an eight-game, three-city trip that started with a two-game set against the Oakland Athletics.
“The pennant race is on,” Ellis said. “This is the time of year you’ve got to step up.”
No-hit by Mike Fiers in their series opener against the Astros and limited to one run Saturday, the Dodgers are slumping offensively.
The game Sunday started better than the previous two, as the Dodgers scored in the first inning. Chase Utley doubled off Astros starter Lance McCullers, advanced to third base on a wild pitch and went home on a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner.
The Dodgers doubled their lead to 2-0 in the fifth inning, when Ellis doubled and scored after McCullers uncorked a couple more wild pitches.
The Astros started to edge their way back into the game in the sixth inning, when Jose Altuve doubled to right field.
“I thought I threw a really good two-strike fastball down and away,” Kershaw said. “Really impressive at-bat for him.”
Carlos Gomez singled to left field to move Altuve to third, after which Carlos Correa singled on a comebacker that struck Kershaw on his foot. Altuve scored on the play, reducing the Astros’ deficit to 2-1.
“It was like a changeup, almost,” Kershaw said. “I kind of reacted too fast and my foot got in the way of my glove. That’s a double-play ball right there. That would have stopped the damage.”
Jed Lowrie flied out to right field, allowing Gomez to tag up, reach third base and set the stage for the most unusual play of the game.
With Evan Gattis at the plate and Kershaw directing his attention to Correa at first base, Gomez tried to steal home.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez and third baseman Turner alerted Kershaw to what was happening, allowing him to throw out Gomez at the plate.
“I know you have time,” Kershaw said. “It’s only 60 feet. He has 90 to go. Felt pretty confident we could get him out there.”
Still, the play was close enough that the Astros asked for the play to be reviewed under baseball’s replay system.
Ellis was knocked down on the play, as the headfirst-sliding Gomez kicked him in the head as he went by him. Ellis stayed in the game.
Kershaw pitched two more innings, departing from the game with seven hits and no walks charged to him. Watching the game end in defeat, Kershaw conceded, was “disheartening.”
But, he said, “Just keep grinding. That’s the way this game goes. We have to keep playing. You can’t quit now.”
Left-hander Alex Wood (8-8, 3.79 ERA) will face left-hander John Lamb (0-1, 6.35) and the Reds on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PDT at Great American Ball Park. TV: SportsNet LA; Radio: 570, 1020.