Recap: Chris Taylor’s strikeout problems magnified in Dodgers’ 5-0 loss to Giants

Chris Taylor's slow start to the season continued with three strikeouts Tuesday. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

Chris Taylor’s three strikeouts loom large in Dodgers’ first shutout of the season.

Chris Taylor strikes out three times as Dodgers lose to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — It might be a new season. But two weeks into the campaign, Chris Taylor is battling the same old issue.

In all three of his at-bats Tuesday night, the Dodgers veteran struck out with runners on base. In his final trip to the plate, he went down swinging with no outs and the bases loaded.

Taylor wasn’t the only culprit in the team’s 5-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants, a shutout defeat in which the Dodgers collected just three singles and, despite drawing five walks and two hit-by-pitches, went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

But in the aftermath of a flat rivalry game defeat, it was Taylor’s continued punchout problems that loomed largest amid an already slow start to the season.

“Just a tough game,” said Taylor, who is three for 31 with 14 strikeouts through his first nine games. “It’s discouraging, but that’s part of the game. It’s a long season. Come in tomorrow and get back to work. I’ve been doing it for a while.”

Strikeouts have long been a flaw in Taylor’s resume — he has the seventh most in the majors since the start of 2017 — but he used to compensate with his ability to draw walks, hit for power and provide consistent production as a versatile utility player.

It’s what helped him establish himself as a one-time all-star in Los Angeles.

It’s what prompted the Dodgers to sign him to a four-year, $60-million contract as a free agent ahead of last season.

Ever since then, though, the 32-year-old hasn’t looked like nearly the same player.

Last season, he batted a career-low .221 with 160 punchouts, posting the second-highest strikeout percentage (35.2%) among major league batters with 400 plate appearances.

Taylor tried to make mechanical changes to his swing this spring, when his strikeout problems persisted in Cactus League play, and believed he was turning a corner after a strong showing in last month’s Freeway Series.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had been encouraged as well.

“He’s going to get going offensively,” Roberts said before Tuesday’s game. “Hits have been hard to come by for him, even when he’s squaring the baseball up. But I’m going to keep running him out there when I get a chance.”

That’s exactly what Roberts did in the top of the sixth inning, when the Dodgers were threatening to erase a 2-0 deficit with the bases loaded against Giants right-hander Jakob Junis.

Taylor had struck out twice earlier in the game — hitting two line drives narrowly foul in his first at-bat, then going down swinging for the second time in a full count in the fourth inning — and Roberts had left-handed hitter Max Muncy on the bench.

But with Giants left-handed reliever Scott Alexander already warming up, and another left-handed batter in James Outman due up next, Roberts decided to stick with Taylor.

“I just felt that Chris could move the ball forward,” Roberts said.

It didn’t take long to realize he couldn’t.

After taking an inside sinker on the first offering, Taylor struck out on the next three pitches: whiffing on an outside slider, taking a sinker over the plate, then fanning on another slider well away for the first out of what proved to be an empty, unproductive inning.

“It was just the frustration getting to me,” Taylor said. “Swinging at bad pitches.”

Asked about Taylor’s struggles after the game, Roberts struggled to find an answer.

“I thought we were feeling pretty good as far as the process and taking good swings, having good at-bats,” he said. “But today certainly was a forgettable one.”

Taylor echoed similar sentiments, acknowledging that “even if [my swing] is trending upwards, I’m still not quite right” with the mechanics.

“You’re always frustrated when you’re not having results,” Taylor added. “I think you got to just keep going and understand that it’s still early in the season. Like I said, just come in with a fresh mindset, keep working, keep your head down, move forward.”

And, he and the Dodgers continue to desperately hope for, cut down on his increasingly intolerable penchant for swings and misses.


Dodgers go quietly in ninth and lose

⚾ Giants 5, Dodgers 0 — Final

Camilo Doval, the Giants’ sixth pitcher, closes out the game, striking out Freddie Freeman to secure San Francisco’s 5-0 win.


Evan Phillips gets hammered in eighth

⚾ Giants 5, Dodgers 0 — End of the eighth inning

Evan Phillips, the Dodgers’ best reliever, gives up a two-run home run to David Villar and a solo shot to Brandon Crawford in the eighth inning to put the Dodgers in a five-run hole.

Phillips had not given up a run in his first five appearances this season.


Dodgers running out of chances

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — Eighth inning

Giants reliever Tyler Rogers get the Dodgers in order in the top of the eighth, leaving L.A. with only one more inning to try to tie the score.


Dodgers one for 18 with runners on base

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the seventh inning

Mookie Betts begins the top of the seventh with a walk against John Brebbia.

But the Giants’ fourth pitcher of the game strikes out Freddie Freeman and gets Will Smith to fly out to center and J.D. Martinez to pop to short.

The Dodgers have one hit in 18 at-bats with runners on.


Bases loaded, no out and Dodgers still can’t score

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the sixth inning

The Dodgers load the bases with no out in the sixth against Jakob Junis.

But Chris Taylor strikes out for the third time in three at-bats. Scott Alexander replaces Junis and gets James Outman to ground back to him. Alexander throws to the plate for the second out.

The Dodgers’ futility continues as Miguel Rojas strikes out to end the inning.


Dodgers get Alex Wood out of game, still can’t score

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the fifth inning

Alex Wood is one out away from pitching the required five innings to get a win, when Giants manager Gabe Kapler removes him with runners at second and third.

The decision works as Jakob Junis induces a flyout to right by Will Smith to end the latest Dodgers threat.


Dodgers have no answer for Alex Wood through four innings

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the fourth inning

Alex Wood is shutting down his former Dodgers teammates. Through four innings, he’s given up no runs, one hit and has five strikeouts.


Wood, May cruise through third inning

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the third inning

Former Dodger Alex Woods gives up a leadoff single to Miguel Rojas before retiring the next three batters in the third.

Dustin May, continuing to bounce back from the first inning, has another 1-2-3 frame for the Dodgers.


Dodgers strand two in second inning

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the second inning

The Dodgers waste a two-on, one-out chance in the second inning.

J.D. Martinez (hit by pitch) and Miguel Vargas (walk) sandwich a strikeout by Trayce Thompson to put runners at first and second.

But Chris Taylor strikes out on a 3-2 pitch and James Outman grounds out to first.

After 31 pitches in the first inning, Dustin May needs only 10 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning.


Dustin May’s control betrays him in first inning

⚾ Giants 2, Dodgers 0 — End of the first inning

Dodgers right-hander Dustin May issued only three walks in 13 innings in his first two starts of the season, but his control is an issue in the first inning against the Giants.

He walks LaMonte Wade Jr. on a 3-2 pitch to complete a nine-pitch at-bat, then throws four straight balls to Michael Conforto. After J.D. Davis grounds out to third baseman Chris Taylor to move the runners to second and third, Joc Pederson doubles down to right-filed line to drive in two runs.

May gets out of the inning by getting Mike Yastrzemski to fly out to center fielder Trayce Thompson and David Villar to ground out to Taylor.

Giants left-hander Alex Wood has an easy first inning, needing only 11 pitches to strike out Mookie Betts and get Freddie Freeman and Will Smith to fly out to left and center, respectively.


Dodgers TV schedule for the 2023 regular season

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Return of ‘back-step’ to Max Muncy’s swing keys two-homer, seven-RBI game

Max Muncy was one of the first Dodgers on the field Monday, going through an extended session of early batting practice to reintroduce a crucial tweak to his swing.

When Muncy was struggling last season, out of whack at the plate because of a lingering elbow injury that contributed to woeful inconsistency, the Dodgers’ slugger added a “back step” to his hitting motion, a small, left-footed tap toward the catcher that synced his mechanics and put his mind at ease.

It worked wonders for his swing then, helping him finish the year on an offensive tear.

And it did so again in its sudden return, resulting in a two-homer, seven-RBI explosion that led the Dodgers to a 9-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

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