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Dodgers homers are hushed in dead-silent NLCS defeat

Dodger Stadium is loud in October, and not because the public address system is set to release sound at unreasonably high volumes. Whatever outsiders say about the spectators here showing up late and departing early, these fans can unleash thunderous howls that can be heard on the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River. In their most raucous moments, they make this place shake, literally.

Blue Heaven on Earth, as Tommy Lasorda calls the 56-year-old stadium, was dead Monday night. And who could blame the crowd?

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About the only time the Dodgers offered the fans an opportunity to cheer was when they ran onto to the field for pregame introductions.

Their offense was limited to five hits over nine particularly painful-to-watch innings in a 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

"If we don't score," outfielder Yasiel Puig said in Spanish, "we don't win."

And in what became a familiar theme over the 163-game regular season, if the Dodgers don't hit home runs, they don't score. They remained comically helpless with runners in scoring position, failing to collect a single hit in the 10 at-bats they had in those situations. They struck out 14 times and trail the best-of-seven series, two games to one.

As was the case in their comeback victory in Game 2, the Dodgers were slowed not by the Brewers' celebrated, and perhaps grossly overrated, bullpen. Once again, their tormentor was a crafty journeyman with limited velocity but wicked movement.

Jhoulys Chacin has played for six different teams over the last five seasons, but he might as well have been Greg Maddux. Chacin pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up only three hits, striking out six.

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger discusses his performance and what he needs to do better in the NLCS.

There were chances, however. Multiple chances.

With the Dodgers down, 1-0, Puig doubled in the second inning to give the Dodgers runners on second and third with one out. Yasmani Grandal struck out for the first of three times. Chacin intentionally walked Enrique Hernandez, then escaped the inning unscathed by striking out pitcher Walker Buehler.

Manny Machado started the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk. When Cody Bellinger grounded into a fielder's choice, Machado slid not directly into second base, but in the direction of shortstop Orlando Arcia with the apparent purpose of disrupting his throw to first base. Slide or no slide, Bellinger would have beaten the baseball to the bag. Bellinger was initially ruled to have reached base safely on an errant throw, but the call was overturned by the replay system. Because of Machado's interference, Bellinger was ruled out.

Grandal started the fifth inning with a ground-rule double, but the next three batters went down in order.

The sixth inning was more of the same. Chacin departed with one out and Justin Turner on second base. Chacin's replacement, Corey Knebel, forced Machado to ground out and struck out Bellinger.

In the two previous games, the Dodgers started slow, but attacked late. This time, their late-inning charge never materialized.

The ninth inning was a microcosm of game. Pitching for the Brewers was All-Star right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who called the Dodgers "lucky" after he blew an eighth-inning lead in Game 2. The accountability-averse Jeffress endured more of what he probably considered misfortune, giving up a leadoff single to Turner and a follow-up double to Machado.

But this was the game in which the baseball gods smiled down on Jeffress: With runners on second and third, he had the joyous experience of pitching to the other Dodgers.

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Bellinger popped out. Puig walked on four pitches to load the bases, only for Grandal to strike out. Pinch-hitter Brian Dozier ended the game by striking out looking.

The three Dodgers who made outs punctuated their failures differently. Bellinger lifted his bat in the air with both hands and slammed it to the ground. Grandal went with the one-armed slam. Dozier barked in the direction of home plate umpire Gerry Davis, then retreated to the bench with his head bowed and his bat tucked under his right armpit.

Bellinger is one for 10 in this series and one for 21 in the postseason.

Bellinger isn't alone. Grandal is batting .136 (three for 22) and Max Muncy .176 (three for 17).

"Home runs aren't there and when the home runs aren't there, we got to find a way to score without hitting a home run," Bellinger said. "Myself included. I have to have better at-bats."

At most, they have two games to start doing that. They have to resume launching baseballs into the stands or finding alternative methods to score. Fail to do so and Dodger Stadium goes completely silent until next April.

Los Angeles Times sports writers Andy McCullough, Dylan Hernandez, and sports columnist Bill Plaschke break down the Los Angeles Dodgers' Game 3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS.

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez

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