Dodgers are swept for the first time this season in 8-1 loss to the Diamondbacks
Clayton Kershaw leaned across the dugout railing as this three-game demolition came to an end. A sparse crowd at Chase Field mustered the chant of “Beat L.A.” When the Arizona Diamondbacks secured the final out in this 8-1 shellacking, Kershaw spun around and filtered into the loser’s clubhouse. He trudged alongside a group of teammates who required his presence.
After missing five weeks with a strained back, Kershaw will start Friday night in San Diego. His activation occurs at a fortuitous time. Who better to snap this five-game losing streak?
“That will be fun,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said about Kershaw’s return. “That will be good.”
Little else classified as either fun or good for the Dodgers (91-41) during this series against their potential National League division series foes. The Diamondbacks crushed Kenta Maeda to complete a 27-inning battering of the Dodgers’ starters. The trio of Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-jin Ryu gave up19 runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Maeda managed to dip beneath the low bar set by his predecessors. He completed three innings and surrendered seven runs. He struggled to locate the baseball in areas besides the middle of the plate. The Dodgers do not intend to have Maeda start games in the playoffs, but if they needed reassurances why, he provided a reminder Thursday.
“The starting pitching in this series wasn’t there,” manager Dave Roberts said. “When you start behind the 8-ball, it’s tough to continue to fight back. We talk about how you’re as good as your starting pitching. It was one of those series where for three days, we didn’t have it.”
Down six runs after the third, the Dodgers’ lineup could not replicate the comebacks of Tuesday and Wednesday. In the first two games of this series, the hitters charged back from sizable deficits to, at the very least, put pressure on Arizona’s bullpen. On Thursday, the group capitulated against Arizona ace Zack Greinke (16-6), who limited his former club to one run and four hits.
On Wednesday night, as the Dodgers contemplated their first four-game losing streak of the season, Roberts settled on a solution. Momentum in baseball, the cliche goes, lasts only as long as the next day’s starting pitcher. Already Roberts had begun to think about how his team could hold off the Diamondbacks. Maeda needed to “take command of the game,” he said.
Maeda got the stakes. He knows his place in the team’s playoff plans is tenuous. He understands each outing of his occurs under heightened scrutiny. But he could not fulfill his manager’s wish.
“I was trying to stop the losing streak,” Maeda said. “But unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.”
At the start, Maeda did not receive much help from his right fielder. The losing streak did not appear to create urgency for Yasiel Puig in the first inning. Gregor Blanco, Arizona’s first batter, lined a 2-0 fastball into right field. The pitch landed near Puig’s feet. He secured it in his glove and took his time throwing it back to the infield. The nonchalance allowed Blanco to sprint into second base.
Maeda then walked catcher Chris Iannetta and floated an 0-1 changeup to All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who smashed it into left field for a two-run double.
By yielding only two runs, Maeda offered the best first inning of the three starters in this series. Hill gave up five runs Tuesday. Ryu permitted three Wednesday.
The offense even offered Maeda some assistance. Gonzalez roped a two-out RBI double in the top of the second. The Dodgers appeared set to break the cycle established in this series.
Then Maeda returned to the mound for the bottom of the second. It did not go well. Shortstop Ketel Marte collected a one-out single. Two batters later, Blanco ripped a changeup into the right-field corner. He did not require Puig’s help for a double this time, and Marte raced home.
Up next was Iannetta, who hit a hanging 1-2 slider for two-run homer to left.
“They were seeing him well today,” Roberts said. “They took some really good swings. When you’re seeing a guy well and you’re behind in the count and you leave balls out over the plate — in this ballpark — it’s tough to pitch.”
Once more, the Dodgers had fallen back into the familiar pattern of the previous two games. Maeda only made it worse. The third inning presented more of the same. Goldschmidt led off with a double. Maeda pumped a 91-mph fastball inside to outfielder A.J. Pollock, who launched a two-run shot that gave Arizona a six-run lead.
“A lot of mis-located pitches,” Maeda said. “And they took advantage of all of them.”
During the past five months, the Dodgers breezed through each day without adversity. If they took a lead, they usually held it. If they fell behind, they often came back. If a starting pitcher got leveled, the offense picked him up. For three days in Arizona, the Dodgers could not compensate for their pitching.
Which made the return of Kershaw that much more of a relief.
“The clip that we were on, for a few months at least, we were in rare company,” Roberts said. “Did I foresee us losing five in a row? No. But I know we’ll turn it around. We’ve got to find a way to win a game.”
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