At this juncture of September, with the Dodgers close enough to touch a fourth consecutive division title, a result like Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to San Francisco neither creates panic nor evokes comfort. There is little reason for the Dodgers to fret about the immediate future. The team still holds a five-game lead in the National League West with 11 to play.
On a muggy night at Chavez Ravine, Manager Dave Roberts chose not to extend Rich Hill beyond the fifth inning. His lone blemish was a solo homer in the fifth. Hill gave up six hits but struck out seven. Roberts chalked the decision up to “preservation” of Hill, who has dealt with blisters on his hand for months.
“It’s not necessarily an issue,” Roberts said. “But it’s something we have to keep an eye on.”
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt added a homer off reliever Grant Dayton in the ninth.
The Dodgers poked at Giants starter Johnny Cueto for nearly six innings, but could not produce a run. Cueto (17-5) scattered eight hits before exiting with a leg injury. A pair of left-handed Giants, Steven Okert and Will Smith, collected eight outs, and Sergio Romo pitched the ninth, as the Dodgers (85-66) went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“There was a lot of traffic on the bases,” Roberts said. “There were some balls hit hard, but at guys. But [Cueto] made pitches when he needed to.”
The Dodgers could not build off the excitement from Monday’s game, even if some verbiage carried over. Suppressed by Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, the Dodgers caught a break when Bumgarner jawed with Yasiel Puig after the seventh inning. “Don’t look at me,” Bumgarner hollered at Puig.
Tuesday, the Dodgers revived the issue with a fashion choice. Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner and a few others sported T-shirts that read “#DontLookAtMe” on Tuesday afternoon.
“I didn’t see them,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “What’s that referencing? Technology, man. People are quick these days.”
Hill and Cueto traded scoreless frames at the start. Hill gave up a pair of two-out singles in the second inning. On the second hit, shortstop Brandon Crawford tried to advance from first to third. To do so, he needed to challenge the arm of rookie Andrew Toles. Crawford lost the gamble; Toles threw him out, and Crawford left the game because of a dislocated left pinkie finger.
The Dodgers showed an ability to make hard contact against Cueto during the first three innings, but could not cobble together a run. With two on and no outs in the first inning Turner grounded into a double play. Toles cracked a line drive into left in the second — which landed in the glove of outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. A one-out double by Corey Seager in the third went for naught.
The Giants stressed Hill in the fourth. Buster Posey saw four curveballs, and lined the fourth a single. Up next, outfielder Hunter Pence flicked a first-pitch curve into right field for another single. Two batters later, second baseman Joe Panik loaded the bases with a walk.
Into the batter’s box stepped Belt. Hill favored his fastball over his curve. He snapped a 90-mph heater on the inner half to freeze Belt for the third strike. Hill skipped off the mound and into his dugout.
In the fifth, Hill blinked first. Eduardo Nunez took a 1-1 fastball high to left field. The baseball cleared the fence, clipped a camera, bounced off a wall and returned to the field. Nunez was initially credited with a triple, but a replay review showed the solo homer.
After five, Hill had thrown 77 pitches. He was due to bat first in the bottom of the inning. Roberts sent Howie Kendrick to hit for him. Hill shook Roberts’ hand in the dugout and lamented the location of the fastball to Nunez.
“At the end of the day, it’s disappointing,” Hill said. “One mistake to Nunez. That fastball was supposed to be down.”
Like the night before, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy turned to his bullpen earlier than he preferred. Cueto looked uncomfortable in the bottom of the sixth, clutching at his left leg. The official diagnosis would be a strained left groin. After he walked Toles to place runners at first and second, Bochy sent in Okert.
The Dodgers could not touch him. Roberts sent up two pinch-hitters, Puig and Enrique Hernandez. Both struck out. The Dodgers would not place another runner on second base all evening.
“It was a well-pitched ballgame,” Roberts said. “But we came up short.”