For nearly three weeks, from the time they left Chase Field after an 11-inning, walk-off loss June 5 to their return to the desert Monday, the Dodgers’ bullpen performed like one of the best in baseball.
Their 2.59 ERA in that span ranked third among all teams. It was an encouraging, if diminutive, sample size, one they could wish would become a lasting trend and erase the only glaring flaw for a club cruising to its seventh straight division title with the best record in the majors.
That stretch of success abruptly ended in the eighth inning of their 8-5 loss to Arizona on Monday. The Diamondbacks tallied four runs in the frame against Dylan Floro to bust open a tie game and snap the Dodgers’ six-game win streak.
Operating without Pedro Baez, who would’ve been the choice in the eighth inning but was resting after pitching the previous two days, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts inserted Floro to face the meat of the Diamondbacks’ lineup. He promptly surrendered a bloop single to Ketel Marte and hard-hit singles to Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta, who delivered the walk-off hit the last time the teams played here and gave the Diamondbacks (40-40) the lead again Monday. Nick Ahmed’s sacrifice fly and a two-run single by former Dodger Tim Locastro completed the outburst.
After beginning his season with a 0.00 ERA in 17-1/3 innings, Floro has been charged with 12 earned runs in 10-1/3 innings. His ERA has ballooned to 3.90 in five weeks. The recent struggles underscore the bullpen’s standing as the Dodgers’ lone prominent weakness. Six of their nine losses in their last 33 games and 15 of their 26 losses overall have been charged to a pitcher out of the bullpen.
“As the season goes on and you give guys opportunities to pitch well and to see how they respond then as the season moves on, you really know what you have in deciding what we need to do if anything,” Roberts said when asked if the relief corps is good enough for a team trying to win a World Series. “So right now, where we’re at, these are the guys we’re going to continue to run with — until there’s a change.”
“Although it’s innocent right now, it could be dangerous,” Bellinger said.
The Dodgers (54-26) registered a run in the ninth, but had chances to construct a lead before Floro’s struggles. Instead, they went three for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base, unable to strike again after a first-inning surge.
The contest began as a duel between Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who once topped the Dodgers’ rotation together. Early fireworks soiled the matchup. Greinke was charged with four runs — three in the first inning — on seven hits across six-plus innings. He struck out six and walked one. Kershaw surrendered four runs — all in the first two innings — on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk. The four runs matched the most he’s given up in 13 starts this season.
Greinke began the night with a 2.91 ERA in 16 starts, maintaining his presence among the best pitchers in the National League four years removed from finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting in his final season as a Dodger. That was far from a guarantee after his opening day debacle in Los Angeles. That afternoon, the right-hander surrendered seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. He gave up four home runs. The Dodgers finished with a franchise-record eight homers in a blowout.
Greinke allowed 26 runs over his next 98-1/3 innings — good for a 2.38 ERA — before Monday. The Dodgers regenerated tumult upon meeting him again. Within a few minutes, Los Angeles built a 3-0 lead. Bellinger and Chris Taylor each supplied an RBI double and Max Muncy contributed a run-scoring groundout.
The cushion did not last long on Kershaw’s watch. Christian Walker whacked a misplaced slider for a game-tying, three-run home run with two outs in the first inning for his third homer in six plate appearances against the left-hander. It was the 11th home run Kershaw allowed this season, but just the first with two runners on base.
More two-out trouble plagued Kershaw in the second inning when Greinke, one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers, smashed a fastball over the left-field wall to give Arizona a 4-3 edge with his third home run.
The pitchers exchanged zeroes over the next four innings, each overcoming danger in the sixth frame, until the seventh inning when the Diamondbacks intentionally walked Bellinger for the second time to load the bases for Muncy. The strategy backfired. Yoshihiso Hirano walked Muncy on four pitches and the game was tied. Hirano fell behind 3-and-1 but recovered to strike out Taylor looking on a fastball and escape with the bases filled.
An inning later, Floro stumbled, giving the Dodgers another late loss.
“Tonight it just didn’t work out for [Floro],” Roberts said. “These are our guys right now and we’ve got to continue to run them out there.”