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Dodgers fall to Giants, 12-6, and Dave Roberts gets his turn to face questions

Dodgers starter Alex Wood walks to the dugout after being removed in the sixth inning of Thursday's game against the Giants.

Dodgers starter Alex Wood walks to the dugout after being removed in the sixth inning of Thursday’s game against the Giants.

(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Dave Roberts debuted as the Dodgers’ manager three days ago, but he underwent his initiation into the big league fraternity Thursday. All managers undergo these trials, the ritualized act of being publicly second-guessed.

In a 12-6 loss to the Giants, Roberts exposed himself to questions about his bullpen usage after starter Alex Wood and reliever Yimi Garcia combined to blow a four-run lead.

The blame for the first loss of the season spread from Wood (five runs allowed) to Garcia (two runs allowed) to the team’s untidy outfield defense to the vagaries of batted-ball luck to Pedro Baez (who surrendered a comeback-deflating grand slam to Hunter Pence in the eighth).

“They have a good lineup, but our offense gave us six runs,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “We need to win that game.”

The central question to emerge was why Roberts chose to send Wood into the teeth of the San Francisco lineup for the sixth inning. His answer revealed the central dilemma of his job, how he must manage for today, in addition to tomorrow, next week and next month.

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With rookie Ross Stripling slated to start on Friday, Roberts felt he could not expend his bullpen for four innings of work. He hoped Wood could slog through another frame. “I still trusted his stuff at that point,” Roberts said, even after the maneuver backfired.

The Dodgers (3-1) came to AT&T Park after silencing the Padres for three consecutive shutouts. Wood extended that streak of scoreless innings to 31, establishing a franchise record. But in the fifth inning, as he faced the Giants for the third time through the order, he wobbled and yielded three runs.

Wood showed this vulnerability last season. When he faced batters for the third time, he allowed them to bat .306 with an .808 on-base plus slugging percentage. Roberts knew the statistics. But he decided to show faith in his starter.

As Wood waded through the fifth, Garcia warmed up in the bullpen. He sat down when Wood retired left-handed-hitting first baseman Brandon Belt to end the inning. With Wood set to bat third in the top of the sixth, Roberts could have used a pinch-hitter and started with a fresh pitcher.

Instead, Wood went to the plate. He struck out. Then he returned to the mound and promptly allowed a pair of ground-ball singles. At last, Roberts left the dugout to fetch Wood.

“I thought I made all-right pitches,” Wood said. “They just hit them where we weren’t.”

At this point, the Dodgers still could have escaped. But pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza bunted both runners into scoring position. Garcia pumped a cutter over the middle of the plate to outfielder Angel Pagan. Pagan stroked a two-run single into right.

“Yimi came in and he was up [in the zone] a little bit,” Roberts said. “And they were aggressive.”

For the first time all season, the Dodgers trailed. It only got worse. Joe Panik hit a run-scoring single and advanced to second when center fielder Joc Pederson missed the cutoff man. Thus Panik was in position to score on Buster Posey’s single. Posey took second base on a throwing error by left fielder Scott Van Slyke.

Roberts called the mistakes “uncharacteristic.”

“We can’t give them extra bases,” Roberts said. “But that’s something that as things go on throughout this season, we’ve got to talk about, and continue to get better.”

The fifth and sixth innings tempered the enthusiasm of a day that began with such promise. Adrian Gonzalez doubled twice, scoring on an Enrique Hernandez single in the second and driving in a run in the third. A reversed call at second base in the second inning created an additional run. Van Slyke provided a run-scoring double.

With Wood at the helm, the lead looked safe. His fastball hummed in the low 90s on Thursday, a tick above the 89-mph pitch he showed in 2015. But he walked shortstop Brandon Crawford to start the sixth and could not field an expertly placed bunt single by pinch-hitter Kelby Tomlinson.

Two batters later, Crawford trotted home on a groundout. It was the first run allowed by the Dodgers in 2016. There were two outs. All appeared well.

Except Panik ripped a 92-mph fastball into the right-center gap for a run-scoring triple. Posey brought him in with a double. Wood bested Belt, left-hander against left-hander, in what seemed like Wood’s last encounter of the day. But because it wasn’t, Roberts underwent the initiation of second-guessing.

“Any time you lose, it’s frustrating,” Roberts said. “But there’s still a lot of things we did well. And we kept competing, kept playing.”

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter: @McCulloughTimes


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