Column: Whole Dodgers team guilty of a bad start, not just their ace

Los Angeles Times sports writers Andy McCullough, Dylan Hernandez and sports columnist Bill Plaschke discuss Clayton Kershaw’s troubles and the Dodgers dropping Game 1 of the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Welcome to the land of cheese, where, for the longest time Friday night, the Dodgers stunk like a slab of Limburger.

Greetings from Miller Park, where, for the first seven innings, the Dodgers were as flat as stale Hamm’s.

Hello from Game 1 of the National League Championship Series in old Milwaukee, which the Dodgers began by aimlessly wandering around like broke tourists on a late night at Oktoberfest.

By the time they found themselves, it was too late. When they finally mounted what would have been one of the greatest rallies in their postseason history, the climb was too much.


Given their night of misfortune, it figured that Justin Turner would strike out with the tying run on third base to end the Milwaukee Brewers’ 6-5 victory.

“We were right in it,” Chris Taylor said in a Dodgers clubhouse draped in silence. “But our mistakes cost us in the end.”

Those mistakes helped give the Brewers a 6-1 lead after seven innings. When the Dodgers came back, it was a comeback too far.

They scored three runs in the eighth on singles by Manny Machado and Matt Kemp, but the inning ended with Yasiel Puig striking out with runners on the corners. Then they scored again in the ninth on Taylor’s triple before Turner’s strikeout against Corey Knebel, the seventh Brewers pitcher, finished it.


“The goal is to win a baseball game, but I think that it shows the [will to] compete in our guys,” Roberts said.

But it’s hard to compete while flat on your back, which is where the Dodgers could be found after playing the first seven innings almost like it was the first spring training game.

As thousands of Brewers fans waved yellow flags, the Dodgers flapped their bats, flailed their gloves. As thousands did a slow-motion wave, the Dodgers played a slow-motion game.

With their hosts chanting, “Beat L.A.,” the Dodgers did just that, eventually losing with four errors, two passed balls and 13 strikeouts.

For the Brewers, it was Hamburger Night, as their 12th consecutive win ensured a free burger for everyone next week as prom- ised through an ancient promotion from the city’s venerable George Webb restaurants.

For the Dodgers, it was Throwback Night, as they went back, back, back to the days of Clayton Kershaw’s postseason demons and the early-season sloppiness that led to a 16-26 start.

“I don’t think we came out flat. We were ready to go. It’s just baseball,” Taylor said. “I don’t think it was anything to do with the moment or anything like that. You’re going to have those innings sometimes.”

They can quickly regain their mojo Saturday afternoon in Game 2 with hot Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching, but they can’t wait any longer, because this group is not used to playing from behind. The last time the Dodgers lost the first game of a seven-game series, it was in the 2016 NLCS to the Chicago Cubs, a series they lost in six games.


The good news for Dodgers fans is that they wore down several Brewers relievers and showed they eventually can strike deep into the Brewers’ strength. The bad news is, they’re still trailing in the series because they just couldn’t get started.

There was an early mess on the mound, where Kershaw blew up by allowing five runs, four earned, in three innings. There was early muck behind the plate, where Yasmani Grandal imploded with two passed balls and two errors, one being a catcher’s interference that nullified a tremendous diving catch by first baseman Dave Freese on a liner by Jesus Aguilar, keeping alive a rally. There was also an early eyesore in left field, where Taylor botched a single, which led to a run.

“Yeah, it was a tough one; obviously you don’t want to get off to that start,” Kershaw said. “But it happened, and you try to win tomorrow.”

That start was particularly nightmarish when, given a 1-0 lead on a home run by Machado, Kershaw allowed a home run by — and this is as hard to type as it was to watch — a relief pitcher.

His name is Brandon Woodruff, and he already had homered once this year, but still … a relief pitcher?

“I knew he could swing the bat a little bit, for sure,” Kershaw said of Woodruff’s leadoff homer in the third. “I didn’t know he could do that.”

It was another disappointing postseason start for the Dodgers’ confounding ace, continuing a string of October stunners from one of the greatest six-month pitchers in baseball history. He seemed to break the spell by allowing the Atlanta Braves just two hits in eight shutout innings in a Game 2 victory in the National League Division Series last week. But here he was again, following the Woodruff homer by allowing a total of six hits in those three innings with just two strikeouts.

Said manager Dave Roberts: “I thought the stuff was good, but he just made mistakes in the strike zone and defensively, again, we didn’t do him any favors.”


Said Kershaw: “Didn’t feel out of control. Just gave up some hits. ... I’ve got to do a better job keeping the score close.”

We’ve heard those quotes before. Just when it seems they’ve finally been quieted, we hear them again.

The struggling part of the Dodgers’ evening ended with the appearance of Julio Urias, surely the strangest postseason roster addition of any team in recent history. In replacing Scott Alexander in the bullpen for the NLCS, Urias was put in the position of facing big-league hitters for just the fourth time since undergoing shoulder surgery more than a year ago.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Urias allowed a homer to the first hitter he faced, with Aguilar’s seventh-inning blast giving the Brewers a 6-1 advantage they would need. It turns out, in fact, that Aguilar’s hit proved to be the precise difference.

Yeah, not even the Dodgers front office could get this one right.

Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chris Taylor discusses losing Game 1 of the NLCS.

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke

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