These are seven of the unlikeliest words in the English language. Please be seated before you read them.
The Dodgers can’t score at Coors Field.
The home team has pretty good pitching this year, true, but the ballpark remains the most hitter-friendly venue in the National League. The Dodgers have failed to score more than four runs in any of their last five games here.
And so, whatever happens in Sunday’s finale of the weekend showdown, the Dodgers will leave Denver in the same position they arrived: in second place in the NL West, looking up at the Colorado Rockies in the standings.
The Dodgers scored two runs on Saturday, four on Friday, and three, two and four in their previous three games here in August. That’s 15 runs in five games, about what you might expect at the waterfront ballparks in San Francisco and San Diego. Not here, a mile high.
The Dodgers lost on Saturday 4-2. They dropped 11/2 games behind the Rockies.
“You do expect to put up runs in this ballpark,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
A blip here could be forgiven if the bats were clicking at sea level. However, in their last 11 games, here or anywhere, the Dodgers scored 11 runs once, no more than four runs in any of the other games.
Can the Dodgers make the playoffs without getting more out of their offense?
“No,” Roberts said.
Justin Turner, informed of that sentiment, did not rush to embrace it.
“As long as we score more runs than the other team, I don’t care what the offense does,” Turner said.
Walker Buehler, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher, gave up as many runs on Saturday as he had in his previous five games. He worked six innings and gave up four runs, including a two-run home run from Charlie Blackmon and a solo shot from Chris Iannetta.
The Dodgers had a solo shot too, from Chris Taylor, and little else.
Buehler did not deserve the loss. This is too cruel a ballpark to pitch with the tiny margin of error the Dodgers afforded him.
They did not get a hit with a runner in scoring position until two were out in the ninth inning, when Cody Bellinger tripled and Max Muncy doubled him home. The game ended when Yasmani Grandal, representing the tying run, struck out looking and threw his helmet to the ground, objecting to the call.
They had three chances in the eighth inning. Chase Utley, who did not grow up in the era of launch angles and shameless strikeouts, led off the inning and willed himself to get hit by a pitch. He stole second base too.
That gave the Dodgers three tries with a runner in scoring position. Turner struck out. Manny Machado flew out. Matt Kemp grounded out.
Utley never moved beyond second base.
Colorado starter Kyle Freeland, making a longshot case for the NL Cy Young Award, gave up one run in six innings to lower his earned-run average to 2.91.
Freeland is legitimate. And the Dodgers have scored at Coors Field this year: 33 runs in three games here in June.
But this is a bad time for the bats to go cold.
“This time of year, they’re big games. They’re going to be close games,” Turner said. “You can’t point your finger at anything.”
Said Roberts: “Offensively, we just can’t get synced up. I think the at-bats are there. It’s just the results aren’t there. I know we believe that we are going to put runs together and put crooked numbers up there. Right now it’s just not happening.
“We are still finding ways to win baseball games, which is the most important thing.”
The good news is that the Dodgers have won 10 of 14 games. The bad news is that they have lost three of four, and the number of games left has dwindled to 20.
A wild-card berth remains beyond their present grasp. If the playoffs started Sunday, they would not be in them.
“The game of baseball is weird,” Turner said. “It’s not about scoring a ton of runs every night. It’s about scoring more than the other team.”
That’s the crazy thing about the NL West. The Dodgers have outscored their opponents by more runs than any other team in the league. The Rockies have been outscored.