The glee returned for about an hour on Friday evening. For a few innings, at least, the Dodgers offered a reminder about what this season once felt like.
Justin Turner bashed a home run in his first at-bat. The offense piled up four runs in the first inning. A sold-out Dodger Stadium felt like a cauldron of noise.
The happiness proved fleeting. Reality intervened, in the sort of distressing fashion that has become so common. Yu Darvish and the defense frittered away a three-run lead. The offense went back to its busy schedule of stranding runners, with eight men left aboard after the first inning. And the Dodgers lost for the eighth game in a row, this one a 5-4 defeat.
After surging on a 116-win pace heading toward October, the Dodgers have now lost 13 of 14. No baseball team has ever endured a 1-13 stretch and won the World Series, according to STATS LLC.
Perhaps the concept of a championship should be stowed away until the Dodgers win another game.
Most of the players had exited the clubhouse before reporters arrived after the game. This is common during Fridays at Dodger Stadium, when the post-game fireworks display creates a hellacious traffic jam. There was little for the group to say. Rhetoric matters little when you lose every day.
Darvish left after 4 1/3 innings. The offense stranded 10 runners. Turner struck out with runners in scoring position in the fourth and the sixth innings.
Manager Dave Roberts unloaded some frustration on the fans who jeered Pedro Baez upon the reliever’s arrival in the game during the sixth inning. After wearing the loss in two games in the last six days, Baez was booed before he threw his first pitch. Roberts called the reaction “ridiculous” and “irresponsible.”
“That’s something that really [ticked] me off tonight,” Roberts said. “Where this guy’s grinding, trying to find his way through things and has done a lot of good things for us. He’s pitched big innings. And these are our fans, who come here and welcome him with boos? That’s ridiculous.”
The only reason for positivity stemmed from a game in Arizona. The Diamondbacks could not overcome an eight-run deficit to San Diego, and saw their 13-game winning streak end. Because Arizona lost, the Dodgers managed to maintain a 10-game lead in the National League West. They have still lost 13 of their last 14 games.
It sounds strange to discuss the division race, but these are strange times. The Dodgers appear incapable of replicating the competence they displayed all summer — let alone the magic that powered that on a pace for 116 wins in the final week of August.
They cannot blame injuries. The lineup became whole on Friday. Corey Seager had not started at shortstop since Aug. 27. He was resting his sore right elbow, despite his protestations. Seager lobbied Roberts on a daily basis to let him back into the lineup. His anger built as the losses piled up.
“It was a thing where I just couldn’t accept, whether I needed the time off or not, to take the time,” Seager said. “I just couldn’t accept it.”
The Dodgers lost 10 of 11 games while Seager sat. His absence was one partial explanation for the skid. Another relied on one of the sporting world’s most infamous myths. When Sports Illustrated splashed Turner across its cover a few weeks ago, complete with the headline “Best. Team. Ever?” Roberts insisted he did not believe in jinxes. He sounded less sure on Friday.
“It’s come to fruition,” Roberts joked. “The Sports Illustrated cover got us.”
The tide did not turn immediately. The opening felt like more of the same. Darvish dumped his team into a one-run hole in the game’s third at-bat. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez whacked a 96-mph fastball over the left-field fence. Once a fearsome slugger, Gonzalez has declined in recent years. It was only his 10th homer of the season.
The Dodgers erased the deficit in the bottom of the inning. Curtis Granderson led off with a single, recording his seventh hit in 19 games as a Dodger. Seager popped up the first pitch he saw. The anticlimax did not deter Turner.
Turner worked a 3-1 count against Colorado starter German Marquez. When a slider cut over the plate, Turner smashed it to left. Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra scaled the wall. The fans popped when it was clear Parra’s chase was futile. The two-run shot gave the Dodgers a lead.
Barnes fouled off a pair of 2-2 fastballs. Marquez tried a third heater, a 97-mph pitch that zipped over the inner half of the plate. Barnes stroked it into right-field for a two-run, opposite-field single. The Dodgers had not scored four runs in a game since last Sunday. Now they had four in one inning.
Darvish needed the support. His transition to Los Angeles has been bumpy. He missed 10 days because of a mild back injury. He spent weeks fiddling with his mechanics, adjusting his arm slot in search of a consistent approach. In his last start, the Padres hung five runs on him in three innings.
Darvish reached a personal milestone in the fourth. By fanning Gonzalez with a slider, Darvish collected the 1,000th strikeout of his career. He hit that mark in 128 games, which the Dodgers announced as the fastest pace in major league history.
“It was not much to me,” Darvish said. “I want to win. I want to go deep into games. Those are the goals I had today.”
He could not even cherish the moment. Darvish came apart in the fifth.
It started in innocuous fashion. Rockies shortstop Alexi Amarista hit a ball into left. Roberts felt it should have been caught. It was not. When Granderson fumbled the ball, Amarista landed at second base. There was one out, and the No. 8 hitter at the plate — a man who had been Darvish’s teammate a little more than a month ago.
Darvish did not gel with catcher Jonathan Lucroy in Texas. Darvish could not find the plate as he faced him now. Lucroy walked to set the table for pinch-hitter Ramiel Tapia.
Darvish threw a 94-mph fastball down the middle. Tapia laced it into center. Pederson barreled toward the baseball, but it ticked off his glove before landing in the grass. Two runs scored, and Tapia took second. He would not remain there long — outfielder Charlie Blackmon smashed a socre-tying double down the first-base line on a 1-2 cutter.
With LeMahieu at the plate, Turner shifted toward second base. LeMahieu reached for a shin-high curveball and rolled it toward third base. Turner could not get back in time. It was yet another double, and this time Colorado claimed the lead.
“The first couple weeks when I joined the team, we were playing really good baseball,” Darvish said. “I was actually surprised, like, ‘Wow, everything we do, it’s working.’ And right now, it’s on the opposite side. The team is not playing well. But the guys are working hard.”