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Dodgers still can't find confidence and swagger in loss to Brewers

Dodgers still can't find confidence and swagger in loss to Brewers
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager fields a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' Orlando Arcia during the seventh inning on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The confidence and swagger that a high-powered Dodgers offense generated during a torrid start has disappeared. In its place is the confusion and mounting frustration of a losing streak that grew to six games Saturday night.

The Dodgers had few answers for the riddle that was Milwaukee starter Zach Davies, who relied primarily on a two-seam fastball that never topped 90 mph and an 80-mph changeup to stifle the Dodgers for seven innings of a 4-1 Brewers victory in front of a sellout crowd of 53,922 in Dodger Stadium.

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Davies gave up one run and eight hits, struck out six batters and did not walk any, his only mistake a hanging curveball that Cody Bellinger hit for a home run in the fourth inning. The infield backed Davies with three inning-ending double plays. The Dodgers had only two at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Dodgers, who were 8-2 to open the season, fell to 8-8 and have lost six games in a row for the first time since a six-game losing streak May 10-16.

“We’re going to be fine,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s not how you want to get to 8-8, but I’m really not too concerned with the results. We just have to continue to pitch well, play defense like we’re playing and take those good at-bats. It will turn.”

Saturday night’s game nearly turned when Bellinger seemed to awaken a slumbering offense with his National League-leading ninth home run, a towering drive to right field that traveled 409 feet, reached 105 feet at its apex and pulled the Dodgers to within 2-1 with one out in the fourth inning.

Enrique Hernandez followed with a single to left field and advanced to third base on Chris Taylor’s two-out single to right. Taylor stole second but Austin Barnes struck out looking at a full-count fastball.

The Dodgers were so furious with umpire Jeremie Rehak’s inning-ending call that catcher Russell Martin, who is on the 10-day injured list, was ejected for voicing his displeasure.

“Obviously, I didn’t think it was a strike, I thought it was outside, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” Barnes said. “It’s a human back there, not a robot. People make mistakes. They miss calls, they don’t miss calls. It goes both ways. One pitch doesn’t really win or lose a game.”

Milwaukee, which scored its first two runs on a Mike Moustakas home run against starter Caleb Ferguson in the second inning and an Orlando Arcia’s drive against Dennis Santana in the fourth, extended its lead to 4-1 in the fifth.

Yasmani Grandal was hit by a pitch, Moustakas singled to right field and Jesus Aguilar walked to load the bases with no outs against Santana. Travis Shaw lined a two-run single off the glove of leaping first baseman Max Muncy.

Roberts replaced Santana with Yimi Garcia, the right-hander who had an 11.12 earned-run average in his first seven games. Garcia escaped the two-on, no-out jam by striking out Arcia and Davies, and getting Lorenzo Cain to fly out.

Davies retired the final eight batters he faced to improve to 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in three starts this season. Right-hander Junior Guerra retired six consecutive batters in the eighth and ninth innings for his first save.

“He was making good pitches and kept hitters off-balance, he doesn’t miss a whole lot in the middle,” said center fielder A.J. Pollock, who was hitless in four at-bats. “At same time, we have to get more dialed in. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is, but it obviously wasn’t our best performance.”

Pollock could say the same about several of the games from a week that began with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals in St. Louis and ended with two loss to a Brewers team that the Dodgers defeated in a seven-game NL Championship Series in October.

“Guys who have been around just know that in a season, stuff like this happens, it’s the normal flow of a season,” Pollock said.

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Hader heater

Josh Hader is tough enough for a left-handed hitter to face without the Brewers relief ace flinging one of his lively 96-mph fastballs toward your head. Hader has held left-handers to a .107 average and one home run since 2017.

That Muncy was sent sprawling into the dirt to avoid an up-and-in fastball from Hader in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 8-5 loss Friday only increased the degree of difficulty of the at-bat.

“When a guy throws a fastball like he does you kind of have to stand in there a little longer, and that makes it more dangerous,” Muncy said of the knock-down pitch.

Hader also throws an 80-mph slider but has thrown his fastball 89.7% of the time this season. Knowing what’s coming doesn’t make it any easier to hit.

“You think it’s going to be at your belt and the next thing you know it’s at your face,” Muncy said. “Obviously, no one throws an actual rising fastball, but he throws the closest thing to it.

Muncy struck out swinging at a full-count pitch with runners on first and third, but his eight-pitch battle was one of a string of quality at-bats that taxed Hader for 32 pitches in the eighth inning.

The workload kept Hader from pitching Saturday, and it could limit him Sunday.

Short hop

Outfielder Connor Joe, a Rule 5 pick designated for assignment by San Francisco after hitting .067 in eight games, was returned to the Dodgers.

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