By the time Justin Turner realized his mistake, by the time he recognized the sudden distance between himself and second base, the ball was in the air and the outcome of this 2-1 Dodgers loss to the San Francisco Giants was finalized. All that awaited him was the application of the tag.
So Turner lunged back toward the base. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford caught the throw from catcher Buster Posey and slapped his glove in Turner’s gut. Turner spun and hurled a scream toward McCovey Cove. Getting picked off to end a game has that effect on a man.
“It was just a bad, bad, bad baseball play,” Turner said. “It can’t happen in that situation. There’s no excuses or anything to be said for it.”
Say this for the most recent twist in the Dodgers’ April-long malaise: The blame can now be spread around. No longer can responsibility for the team’s struggles be pinned solely on an inability to hit left-handed pitchers. During the first four games of this trip, the Dodgers (9-11) have embraced variety, in deflating fashion.
The bullpen face-planted on Friday. Kenta Maeda imploded on Saturday. After a respite created by Brandon McCarthy’s performance on Sunday, the offense failed to support Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64 ERA) in his finest effort of the season on Monday at AT&T Park. Silent for seven innings, the hitters found some footing in the final two innings, only to stumble over their own feet.
“It’s tougher when your best player is at the plate, and you get thrown out there,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Roberts sounded weary after the defeat. He had hoped to build momentum after McCarthy spun seven innings on Sunday. Ryu followed McCarthy’s lead on the mound. The offense just never materialized against fading Giants right-hander Matt Cain, a formerly excellent pitcher who has looked increasingly vulnerable in recent years. Ryu turned in six innings of one-run, five-hit baseball. Cain bettered him by keeping the Dodgers off the board, allowing just two hits in his six innings.
With Giants ace Madison Bumgarner out indefinitely, the Giants rotation places even more faith in pitchers like Cain, who is 32 and five years removed from his last All-Star season. He posted a 5.70 earned-run average in 2015 and 2016. He turned back the clock Monday by generating soft contact. “We really couldn’t put anything together,” Roberts said.
In his first three starts this season, Ryu permitted six home runs, including three against Colorado in his last outing. He looked less flammable on Monday. Yasiel Puig bailed him out in the first by throwing out first baseman Brandon Belt at the plate on a two-out single by Posey. The Giants generated a run after a second-inning double by Crawford and a sacrifice fly by second baseman Joe Panik.
In 2016, when Cain faced batters for a third time, opposing hitters entered a realm populated by the immortals, batting .411 with a 1.215 on-base plus slugging percentage. Except the Dodgers could not capitalize on this gift handed to them Monday.
Cain needed six pitches to retire the side in the sixth. He had not thrown six innings without allowing a run since July 7, 2015.
The eighth and ninth only added to the torment. After a leadoff walk by Chase Utley in the eighth, Enrique Hernandez blooped a single into shallow left. Utley managed to reach third. Hernandez held at first, which altered the complexion of the rally. Taylor got thrown out soon after driving in the run.
In the ninth, Turner supplied a one-out single against San Francisco closer Mark Melancon. He raced to second when Melancon bounced a curveball in the dirt. With Melancon fired a 3-1 cutter to Adrian Gonzalez, Turner broke toward third base. Gonzalez whiffed.
And by the time Turner swiveled back toward second, the ball was in the air, and the game was lost.
“I got caught,” he said.