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Dodgers

Rich Hill not sharp in return, but it takes extras for the Diamondbacks to beat the Dodgers 8-5

Los Angeles Times sports writer Andy McCullough and columnist Bill Plaschke discuss the Dodgers’ woes and let you know if you can panic now.

The Dodgers dugout was littered with bubblegum in the fourth inning and filled with rage in the fifth. It soared with hope in the ninth. It played host to gnashed teeth in the 10th and the 11th. By the 12th, as another Diamondbacks home run disappeared from sight and another game escaped the grasp of the Dodgers, the dugout housed only resignations. They were losers once more, this time wearing an 8-5 defeat in 12 innings.

The Dodgers could only blame themselves. After tying the game in the ninth, they loaded the bases in the 10th and put the first two runners aboard in the 11th. On neither occasion did they score. Instead, they watched as reliever Yimi Garcia permitted a game-deciding, three-run homer to Arizona third baseman Daniel Descalso.

To Roberts, a game like this would have followed a different script in 2016 or 2017. In those seasons, his team managed to steal victories. Thus far in 2018, they are becoming more familiar with defeat.

These are “games that we found ways to win,” Roberts said. “And for the first five weeks of the season, we haven’t. I just don’t have an answer for that. I know that we’ve got to pitch well, and have good at-bats with guys in scoring position. And we just haven’t synced those up.”

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Even after rallying back from a three-run deficit, the Dodgers managed to disappoint. The team pushed the game into extra innings with a ninth-inning homer from Enrique Hernandez. Trailing by a run against Arizona closer Brad Boxberger, Hernandez hammered an 88-mph fastball just past the reach of center fielder A.J. Pollock.

The game already featured plenty of tumult. After Rich Hill surrendered three homers in four innings, he made a mess in the dugout. An inning later, the group emptied its lungs at Arizona outfielder Stephen Souza, Jr., for a takeout slide at third base of Max Muncy.

The dust-up between Souza and Muncy felt like a receipt for the season’s strange schedule. The Dodgers have faced the Diamondbacks 11 times in the first 35 games of 2018, and they will meet again on Wednesday. Arizona has defeated the Dodgers eight times thus far, which explains their nine-game edge in the National League West.

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Diamondback third baseman Zack Godley tags out Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy to end the fourth inning.
(Harry How / Getty Images )

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Yasmani Grandal and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks try to break up a shouting match between Steven Souza Jr. and the Dodgers’ bench after a slide into third base during the fifth inning.
(Harry How / Getty Images )

The Dodgers (15-20) returned home on Tuesday after a debilitating 10-game road trip. As they traveled from San Francisco to Arizona to Monterrey, Mexico, the Dodgers placed Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list. Along the way, they went 4-7 to division opponents.

The team hoped to activate some of its other injured regulars in the coming days. Hill was the first of the group to return to action. It did not go well. It did not last long, although Hill needed 79 pitches to collect 12 outs. He gave up seven hits. Three cleared the fence.

“Tonight is a tough night for me,” Hill said. “This loss falls on me.”

Hil was pitching for the first time since April 14. On that night at Dodger Stadium, he gave up seven runs in five innings to Arizona. As the Diamondbacks pounded him, Hill felt a fingernail on his left middle finger crack. The glitch affected his command and started a cycle of rehabbing that did not end until Tuesday. The nail grew back, but the finger became infected, which caused Hill to miss more time.

The first inning on Tuesday looked similar to Hill’s last outing against the Diamondbacks. Hill generated two quick outs and then two strikes against Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Then Hill threw four consecutive balls, fastballs which missed high and curveballs which missed inside. He set the table for Pollock, one of the National League’s most dangerous hitters.

Pollock entered the game with 10 homers on the year. He had hit six against the Dodgers, including three in one game last month and two in another. His 11th homer of the season came on a 2-0 fastball down the middle. Pollock crushed the pitch for a two-run blast.

“Tonight, it just seemed like everything was below the belt, right at the thigh,” Roberts said. “The one to Pollock was supposed to be away. Got behind [in the count] and missed, middle-middle, at the thigh.” 

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The Dodgers cobbled together a run in the bottom of the inning. After walks by Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp suppled an RBI single off Arizona starter Zack Godley. 

The two teams traded solo shots in the third. Hill paid for an 87.5-mph fastball over the heart of the plate to outfielder Chris Owings. Yasmani Grandal answered by clubbing an elevated fastball deep into the right-field bleachers. 

In the fourth, Hill permitted a leadoff single to Nick Ahmed, a shortstop who entered the game with a career .627 on-base plus slugging percentage. Next was catcher John Ryan Murphy. Hill flung a first-pitch fastball. Murphy was ready for it and hit a rainmaking drive out of the park. 

After the inning, Hill stomped into the dugout and spotted an outlet for his rage. After a moment of hesitation, Hill grabbed a container holding hundreds of pieces of gum and flung it to the ground. The pile of yellow Dubble Bubble sprayed across the dugout as Hill screamed into the void. He kicked at the pieces of sugar-free and the pink classic. He spiked a water bottle for good measure.

“For me to go out there and pitch the way I did was unacceptable,” Hill said. 

As the fifth inning began, a staffer swept away the gum. The Dodgers were soon swept up in another drama when Souza entered the fray. Souza walked against reliever J.T. Chargois. Another walk moved Souza to second base. As Chargois searched for his control, Souza and second baseman Ketel Marte attempted a double steal. Chargois spun in time and threw to third. Souza did not slow down. 

Souza angled his legs toward Muncy and used his upper body to reach for the bag. Muncy’s legs flew out from under him. He rolled over onto his back. Souza reached down to help him up before he realized the Dodgers were screaming at him. Roberts described the slide as “excessive.” 

“It was a steal,” Muncy said. “And he was sliding through it like he was breaking up a double play. Obviously, at that point, he’s not trying to be safe. But as for whether it was dirty or not, or whether that’s what he was trying to do, I haven’t had a chance to look at the play yet.” 

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Souza did not back down. He hollered back at the dugout and pointed in the general direction of second base. When these two teams met in late April, the Diamondbacks were upset about an aggressive slide from Chase Utley into shortstop Nick Ahmed at second base. 

“Chase Utley plays the game really hard,” Souza said. “I play the game really hard. I don’t see any difference in what he did to Nick and what I did there.”

The duo of Dodgers first-base coach George Lombard and third-base coach Chris Woodward seemed ready to jump the railing. Alex Wood joined the barking. Ultimately the group stayed stationary. 

“I didn’t really hear what was going on with that,” Muncy said. “I was just trying to make sure my leg wasn’t broken or anything like that.” 

The team made actual progress in the bottom of the fifth. Grandal contributed a two-out RBI single. Bellinger ripped an RBI double. The rally cut Arizona’s lead to one. The Dodgers crept no further. 

Souza came up to bat again in the seventh. With a runner at first, Dodgers reliever Josh Fields did not throw in the vicinity of Souza’s body. Souza grounded out to third, where Muncy made a strong throw for the final out of the inning. 

“We’ve got two teams that play really hard and these things happen,” Souza said. “I don’t think there’s any ill-will or anything.”

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andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes


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