The Dodgers have weathered their crisis. They are coming for the National League West, and they are coming hard.
Or, perhaps, the division is coming back to them.
Either way, the summer at Chavez Ravine looks a lot less bleak than it did on the first day of this month, when the Dodgers were nine games out of first place.
Had the Dodgers won on Saturday, they would have closed within 2½ games of first, the closest they would have been since the first week of the season. Instead, they gave up four home runs and three leads in a problematic 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres.
“This loss is on me,” pitcher Alex Wood said.
Not in the box score, though. Daniel Hudson, the second of five Dodgers relievers, was charged with the loss. In the last three innings, four relievers combined to give up two runs, three hits and four walks.
The Dodgers still are in fourth place, and they still are under .500, but the NL West is a glorious mess, jumbled and entirely winnable. The Colorado Rockies lead, but the Arizona Diamondbacks are a half-game back, the San Francisco Giants two back.
Then come the Dodgers, in search of their sixth consecutive division title, at 3½ back. Even the Padres, with a record worse than all but two other NL teams, are 5½ back.
The Dodgers have cut their deficit by more than half in the absence of Clayton Kershaw, and their three-time Cy Young Award winner is expected to rejoin the Dodgers’ rotation within the next week.
But, on Saturday, the signs were not all good for the home team.
Wood gave up three home runs in 51/3 innings, after giving up four in his previous 57 innings this season.
“He just didn’t have it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
He gave up five runs, all on home runs: a two-run shot by Freddy Galvis, a solo home run by former Dodger A.J. Ellis that prompted a round of half-hearted boos, and a two-run shot by Christian Villanueva.
“I just threw a stupid pitch to Villaneuva,” Wood said.
That pitch was a changeup, left way too high in the strike zone. The result was painful for Wood, whom the Dodgers seldom let approach 100 pitches or a third time through the lineup.
Wood said he talked Roberts into letting him start the sixth inning, at 70 pitches, and take that third turn through the Padres lineup that included the ill-fated changeup to Villaneuva.
“No way around it,” Wood said. “This one’s on me.”
Villaneuva, the Padres’ rookie third baseman, homered again, off Dodgers reliever Josh Fields. Villanueva has 14 home runs, one shy of Bryce Harper for the NL lead.
Chris Taylor and Justin Turner homered for the Dodgers. For Turner, who missed the first month and a half because of a broken wrist, the home run was his first of the season.
Save ’em a spot?
After Kershaw pitched a simulated game Saturday, he saluted rookie Walker Buehler and swingman Ross Stripling for excellence that might catapult them beyond their status as understudies.
Kershaw, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu are on the disabled list, but Kershaw suggested it would be an understatement to say Buehler and Stripling have filled the void.
“They’ve been pitching unbelievable,” Kershaw said. “I think they’re way beyond filling the void. I think they’re here to stay.”
Hill also participated in the simulated game, keeping his arm in shape but pitching with his blister covered. Until Hill can pitch with his affected finger uncovered, in accordance with league rules, Roberts said, there is little sense in talking about a potential return date.
“I think he is a ways away from that,” Roberts said. “He’s still got to give it time to heal.”
In the simulated game — no commercials, no baserunners, no crowd — Kershaw and Hill combined to face 22 batters in about half an hour.
“It’s a fast game,” Kershaw said. “That’s what we all want, right?”
Roberts drove to his San Diego home after Friday night’s game so he could attend his son’s high school baseball playoff game on Saturday morning. He would have stayed for the whole game had it not gone into extra innings, but Roberts had to drive back for the simulated game.