The cavalry arrived Tuesday. And nothing changed.
Inside a distressing Dodgers season, it was just another day. The Dodgers played a fellow bad team. They lost again, for the fifth game in a row, this time 4-2 to the Miami Marlins, who were unimpressed by the return of Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers lineup.
Onward the Dodgers slouch toward last place, performing as if hell-bent on evicting the San Diego Padres from the basement of the National League West. The Padres remained in last Tuesday, but perhaps they should not buy real estate. The Dodgers are racing to the bottom at an alarming speed. After winning 104 games in 2017, they are on pace for 99 losses in 2018.
Tuesday’s game felt like so many before. The starting pitcher was useful but far from dominant. The bullpen leaked like a sieve. The offense was absent. The manager offered no answers.
“This is testing every bit of fight you have,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This is a stretch that I’m sure a lot of these guys haven’t gone through.”
Alex Wood (0-4) pitched well enough to win, which meant, as a member of the 2018 Dodgers (16-25), he was saddled with a loss. He gave up two runs in six innings, scattering nine singles and striking out five batters. One of the runs was unearned, the product of an error by Forsythe. In the seventh inning, Adam Liberatore and J.T. Chargois teamed up to surrender two runs.
Before the game, Turner insisted he could not serve as this season’s savior. He was right. He was one for four in his first game back from a fractured wrist as the lineup failed to solve Wei-Yin Chen, a starting pitcher who carted a double-digit earned-run average to the mound. Home runs by Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger provided the only offense. The team was hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“Overall, we just haven’t gotten any momentum or started clicking,” Wood said. “Losing’s not much fun.”
It is an outcome to which this team has grown accustomed, though. The Dodgers traveled to Miami on Monday after their worst weekend of the season. They were swept by the lowly Cincinnati Reds in four games at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have reached the level of ineptitude where they cannot even defeat opponents actively engaged in tanking.
Perhaps, the hope went inside the clubhouse, the tide would turn with the activation of Turner and Forsythe. Turner made his 2018 debut Tuesday. Forsythe was playing for the first time since injuring a shoulder April 14. He went 0 for 4.
“We’ve hit a little lull the past week,” Forsythe said. “We’ve discussed what we need to do to turn it around. We’ve got a long season to go. We hit a lull last year, and we still got to Game 7.”
At this point, the Dodgers will require a serious reversal to even sniff October. The team received help Tuesday when Arizona Diamondbacks star outfielder A.J. Pollock was diagnosed with a broken thumb. Arizona had lost six games in a row before winning Tuesday. Even with the Dodgers at a low ebb, the division is still up for grabs.
The Dodgers will need to win a series before they can dream about winning a division. The return of Turner allowed the players to hope. Turner tamped that down before the game.
“It’s just about understanding that one guy can’t come in and drive in 100 runs in one game and hit a bunch of homers,” Turner said. “It’s about taking good at-bats and stacking those good at-bats throughout the lineup.”
Wood gave up hits to the first two batters he faced. The fourth was outfielder Brian Anderson. Playing at shortstop, Chris Taylor scooped a grounder off Anderson’s bat and fed Forsythe for one out at second base. Forsythe bounced a throw to first base and a run scored on the error.
A one-run deficit feels like a mountain these days for the Dodgers. Over the weekend, the hitters were mystified by the Cincinnati quartet of Tyler Mahle, Matt Harvey, Homer Bailey and Luis Castillo. None of those men are expected to contend for the National League Cy Young Award. Neither is Chen, who entered Tuesday with a 10.22 ERA in three starts.
Chen did not yield a hit in the first three innings. The Dodgers could not even capitalize on Miami’s ineptitude in the third inning, when Puig raced from first to third as first baseman Justin Bour watched a bunt attempt by Wood roll in the dirt. Puig remained at third as Taylor swung through a 3-and-0 fastball and failed to do damage on another fastball. Enrique Hernandez struck out to end the inning.
“That one took the wind out of our sails, when we didn’t execute,” Roberts said.
Turner became the first Dodger to collect against Chen with a fourth-inning single. A one-out single by catcher Austin Barnes added to Chen’s stress. Chen did not need to worry. Bellinger and Forsythe flied out to end the threat.
Miami added a run in the fourth. After singles by Anderson and Bour, former Dodger Miguel Rojas provided a sacrifice fly. The act of a productive out looked foreign to the Dodgers offense.
Two more Dodgers were stranded in the fifth. Puig led off with a walk. Taylor singled. But Turner hit a soft liner into the glove of third baseman Martin Prado to extend the team’s woes with runners in scoring position.
Turner was the team’s most productive hitter in 2017. He led the offense throughout the team’s sprint to the World Series. Even so, his return to the lineup cannot heal Corey Seager’s surgically repaired left elbow or end Bellinger’s regression. He cannot fix the bullpen. He cannot show an entire roster how to execute with men on base.
The cavalry arrived for the Dodgers on Tuesday. And it might not be enough.