Delusion does not blind Dylan Floro. He knew he would encounter rough patches this season. That’s the life of a reliever. He just wishes the roughest one of his Dodgers career didn’t surface late in a tie game the way it happened in the Dodgers’ 8-1 loss at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.
Floro’s worst outing as a Dodger did not last very long. It was over in a few minutes, after the reliever faced four batters and allowed four runs without recording an out. It took that long for the Tampa Bay Rays to break a 1-1 tie and inflate Floro’s earned-run average from 0.44 to 2.21, the fickleness of the stat for a reliever on full display.
“I’m just disappointed I let my team down,” Floro said. “I mean, I come in these and they look for me to put up a zero there.”
Summoned to follow another strong outing by Rich Hill after throwing 16 pitches in 1⅓ innings Tuesday, Floro grazed Austin Meadows’s back foot with a slider. He moved to second on a single by Guillermo Heredia and scored Brandon Lowe’s to give Tampa a 2-1 lead. The fourth hitter, Avisail Garcia, drove a 93-mph fastball over the outside corner over the right-field wall for a three-run home run.
Floro was pulled after Garcia’s blast. He threw 11 pitches. His departure did not salvage the Dodgers. Caleb Ferguson replaced him and before the inning ended, Kevin Kermaier slammed another three-run home run to complete a seven-run outburst. The total was more than the Dodgers (32-18) had given up in a game since May 5.
Five Rays pitchers, starting with opener Ryne Stanek, held the Dodgers to five hits and three walks. Cody Bellinger didn’t reach base via hit or walk in a start for the first time this season, spanning 45 games. The offense’s struggles and tag-team bullpen collapse spoiled an enchanting Rich Hill Experience.
The left-hander’s signature grunts, punctuating each pitch, were audible throughout the domed ballpark, enhanced by the acoustics and sparse crowd. As was the explicit language he unleashed when the Rays’ No. 3 hitter, Ji-Man Choi, dropped a two-out bunt single against the shift in the first inning. Hill added more vulgarity as he walked off the mound still enraged about the left side being left unmanned for Choi to exploit.
“I never enjoy seeing an entire part of the field left open,” Hill said. “I think hitters are getting better and understanding how to beat the shift ... Guys are getting more savvy and understanding how to beat the shift. We have to make adjustments to that. I think we will moving forward.”
The animated show continued for another five innings. There were more choice words and snarls and screams and, as always, grunts. He spun his curveball in every which way. He threw a 63-mph Eephus pitch. He displayed abundant gratitude to his catcher, Russell Martin, for making a difficult play after a comebacker bounced off Hill’s glove. And he walked off the mound for the final time, silent and satisfied after allowing one run across six innings.
After recording 10 strikeouts without a walk in six scoreless innings the last time out, Hill compiled seven strikeouts and two walks Wednesday. He escaped jams in the fourth and sixth inning. Three of the five hits he surrendered didn’t leave the infield. He threw 90 pitches.
The performance extended the success of Dodgers starting pitchers this month. Since May 1, Los Angeles starters lead the majors in earned-run average (2.14), innings per starts (6.54), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.06), and fewest walks (17).
The Rays (28-18) jumped ahead in the fourth inning against Hill thanks, in part, to a call in their favor. After falling behind 0-2, Tommy Pham took a fastball that appeared to land in the strike zone. But home-plate umpire Bill Miller called it a ball. That at-bat ended with Pham driving a fastball over the right-field fence.
Max Muncy countered Pham’s homer with his own solo shot, a 420-foot blast off right-hander Yonny Chirinos in the sixth inning. The Dodgers threatened for more in the inning. With two on and two out, Martin cracked a single that Kermaier fielded in shallow center field. Dodgers third-base coach Dino Ebel waved Bellinger home from second base. Kermaier threw him out to end the frame.
Hill left two Rays stranded in the sixth to keep the tie intact until Roberts, who didn’t have Pedro Baez at his disposal after Baez suffered a knee injury Tuesday, elected to put in Floro, who has been reliable since the Dodgers acquired him last July. He entered the game having been charged with six earned runs in 48 innings as a Dodger, good for a 1.13 ERA. He began the season without being charged an earned for 17 1/3 innings until he gave up a grand slam against the Washington Nationals when he was inserted with the bases loaded.
But he stumbled Wednesday, Ferguson wasn’t much better, and the Dodgers’ offense couldn’t counter.
“It’s part of the game,” Floro said. “It’s going to happen. Just got to learn from it and move on.”