Over their first 10 games, before they arrived in the Midwest and were silenced, the Dodgers bulldozed their way to victories in eight of them. They rode the offense on a historic wave. They hit home runs in every game and manufactured runs when balls weren’t landing over the wall. It was an unstoppable force averaging more than eight runs per game against three middling National League West opponents. And, they knew, it was unsustainable.
The law of averages surfaced to abduct the Dodgers’ firepower the last two days. On Tuesday, they were shut out for the first time in a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium to plummet into their first losing streak of 2019.
Facing their strongest opposition this season by a good margin, the Dodgers have scored three runs in two games against the Cardinals to open the clubs’ four-game series. On Tuesday, they left 13 runners on base and were two for 11 with runners in scoring position. It was a 2018 rerun. The Dodgers believe it will be an outlier in 2019.
“Up and down the lineup we’re still doing some really good things,” manager Dave Roberts said. “And I think, ultimately, you look out, we’re going to continue to put pressure on guys and score runs.”
The struggles began with the Dodgers stranding two runners against Dakota Hudson in the first inning. Bigger missed opportunities were ahead. In the third inning, with two runners on base, Cody Bellinger hit a line drive at shortstop Paul DeJong, who caught it and stepped on second base for an inning-ending double play. In the fourth inning, the bases were left loaded when Ross Stripling, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher, struck out with two out. In the fifth, the Dodgers loaded the bases again with two out to chase Hudson, who gave up six hits and walked four batters, and was replaced by right-hander John Brebbia. Enrique Hernandez struck out, slamming his bat in disgust as the Dodgers squandered another chance.
The Dodgers assembled their final threat in the eighth inning. Hernandez led off with a ground-rule double against right-hander Mike Mayers that bounced on the warning track and over left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who had sprinted to climb the wall only to realize the ball wasn’t landing that far. Ozuna panicked, jumped off the wall and landed on his face attempting to recover and catch the fly ball in front of the Dodgers bullpen. Dodgers relievers cackled from their front-row seats. Hernandez said he held his laughter until he watched the replay after the game because the Dodgers were losing.
“He’s going to be on the bloopers for the next 10 years,” Roberts said. “I actually thought it was a homer off the bat and it kind of hung up there. Apparently, he did too.”
Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes walked to bring up Corey Seager, pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot. The Cardinals countered with left-hander Andrew Miller. Seager struck out. The matchup game continued when David Freese emerged to pinch-hit for Joc Pederson. Freese, a hometown hero for his exploits in the 2011 postseason, received a hearty ovation. He tipped his batting helmet. Then he lined out to end the inning.
“They made some pitches,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes you got to give them credit and they did a really good job of staying off the heart of the plate. They were locating really well tonight.”
Stripling (0-1) retired the first two batters he confronted before stumbling in the first inning. DeJong hit a double down the left-field line and Ozuna walked before Yadier Molina connected for a double. The hit was initially ruled as a standard double, enabling Ozuna to score from first base to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. But after the replay review, the call was changed to a ground-rule double. Ozuna went back to third base and a run was taken off the board.