Long before the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night, Dodger Stadium began to shake.
Granted, the place had rattled plenty in the previous nine games there, rocking as the Dodgers rolled to raucous wins in each. But it wasn’t the result, a 3-2 Dodgers loss to the San Diego Padres that was decided by an eighth-inning home run from Hunter Renfroe, that caused the quaking Friday. This time, Chavez Ravine trembled for real.
At 8:21 p.m., with Enrique Hernandez facing Padres pitcher Eric Lauer in the bottom of the fourth inning, an earthquake with a recorded 7.1 magnitude shook the park and the 49,790 spectators. Though its epicenter was more than 150 miles away near Ridgecrest, Calif., the same place where Thursday morning’s slightly smaller temblor originated, the effects were nonetheless felt.
For nearly a minute, the stadium jiggled, evident from the suddenly shaky center-field camera shown on the television broadcast. Undeterred, pockets of fans around the park stood and cheered. On the mound, Lauer was unfazed too. He kicked and fired three pitches all the same.
“I don’t understand how the players can’t feel it,” SportsNet LA color commentator Orel Hershiser said on the broadcast.
According to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, hardly anyone at field level could tell what was happening.
“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Roberts said. “We really couldn’t feel it as much on the field as the people in the upper deck.”
After fouling off a fastball, Hernandez stepped out of the box and looked around as a buzz swept through the stands, apparently unaware that the scoreboards and light poles and rows of seats surrounding him had been subtly swaying.
Play resumed within moments, with Hernandez flying out to end the inning. Aside from a handful of spectators filing for the exits early, the game continued without a hitch. The Dodgers weren’t so lucky.
Down 2-0 early, they had positioned themselves to extend their home winning streak — which would have matched their season high of 10 — by the time the earth began to move. Starter Clayton Kershaw delivered seven stellar innings, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out nine.
“He was really good,” Roberts said. “The last couple [of starts, he] wasn’t sharp. But he was very good tonight. Gave us a chance to win.”
Sloppy Padres defense, meanwhile, allowed the Dodgers to claw their way back. In the third, Austin Barnes reached on a dropped blooper to right before being singled home by Chris Taylor. With the bases loaded in the sixth, Alex Verdugo scored from third on a Max Muncy grounder after first baseman Eric Hosmer’s throw to the plate was off line.
But Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia (1-3) made a mistake to Renfroe in the eighth, hanging a curveball that he belted to left-center for a solo home run. With the Padres back in front, the Dodgers couldn’t produce any more late-inning magic. Instead, the club that had delivered seemingly on demand in recent weeks — including five consecutive walk-off victories at home — came up empty.
Lauer, a 24-year-old left-hander, handled the Dodgers’ lineup during a six-inning, two-run (one earned), six-strikeout display.
The Dodgers couldn’t break through against the Padres’ bullpen either, stranding runners at first in the final three innings to suffer their first home defeat since June 17.
Roberts went as far as acknowledging he was surprised the team didn’t steal another home win, especially after Padres closer Kirby Yates hit pinch-hitter Russell Martin in the head in the bottom of the ninth. (Martin was OK and stayed in the game.) In the wake of the night’s midgame earthquake, though, the Dodgers’ skipper still was proud of the 57-year-old ballpark at least.
“I got word quickly what it was,” Roberts said. “The epicenter was in the same area, so hopefully people are OK. Dodger Stadium held up.”