Dodgers, Mookie Betts fall just short again in loss to St. Louis Cardinals
The stage was set for those in attendance at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night to witness what they had only seen on television in 2020. Up came Mookie Betts with two on and two out in a one-run game in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, looking to at least extend the game, if not author the kind of signature moment he made a regular occurrence in front of cardboard cutouts last season.
For a split second, as his line drive soared to the left-field corner, it looked as if Betts had finally produced one. But, in keeping with his frustrating season, left fielder Tyler O’Neill tracked it down and made a catch at the warning track, topping off the Cardinals’ impressive defensive showing in a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.
Betts went one for four with a walk and emerged with a .247 batting average as the Dodgers (32-23) remain without a walk-off win 55 games into the season after producing two in 60 games in 2020 and 12 in 162 games in 2019. They’re 7-13 in one-run games. No team in the majors has lost more games by one run.
Mike Marshall, who won the Cy Young Award for the Dodgers in 1974 when he pitched in a major league-record 106 games, died on Tuesday.
“You got to make your own breaks,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And if we look back at those games, those 20 games, whatever it is, we could’ve done some other things that probably got us over the top and won those games. So, a lot of times you make your own luck.”
The Dodgers tapped David Price as the opener for their bullpen game after he was effective in the role twice over the last two weeks. Ideally, Roberts said, Price would pitch three innings before passing the baton to the rest of the relief corps.
Price instead recorded just five outs. He exited after giving up two runs and five hits over 1 2/3 innings. He touched 96 mph but had trouble with his command. He threw 50 pitches. It was Price’s worst outing since he returned from a hamstring injury May 18. The 35-year-old left-hander had tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his previous four appearances.
His early exit forced the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen to cover at least 22 outs, a potentially disastrous scenario. But the relief corps kept the Cardinals (31-24) scoreless until the ninth inning, when Edmundo Sosa lined a go-ahead RBI single off Blake Treinen.
That was enough for the Cardinals because the Dodgers’ bats were silenced by John Gant and two relievers with ample help from their defense and some luck.
Gant added another performance to his head-scratching success this season. He began Tuesday with an impressive 1.81 earned-run average but also had issued the most walks, 31, in the National League. He has routinely danced around danger, and he continued the act Tuesday.
Pitcher Trevor Bauer said he will do a deep dive into advanced statistics and video to determine the reasons for the high percentage of long balls.
The right-hander held the Dodgers scoreless across six innings. He scattered four hits, issued three walks and caught two breaks in the sixth inning. First, Max Muncy, after Betts singled, smashed a 103.5-mph line drive that second baseman Tommy Edman snagged with a jump. Two batters later, Will Smith cracked a liner that would have scored Betts from first base before it bounced over the short wall down the left-field line for a ground-rule double. Gavin Lux then flied out to end the threat.
Gant’s night ended there, with a 1.60 ERA for the season. He then watched Giovanny Gallegos, a hard-throwing right-hander, squander the Cardinals’ two-run lead in the seventh inning.
Matt Beaty, a half-inning after dropping a routine fly ball in left field, smashed a two-run home run to the right-field pavilion off Gallegos to tie the score.
Treinen, making his first appearance since Friday, was kept in the game for the ninth inning after logging a perfect eighth on nine pitches and being unavailable Monday because of an undisclosed injury. Roberts declined to offer details when asked Tuesday what specifically hindered Treinen.
“I just don’t want to kind of divulge something I don’t need to,” Roberts said.
Kenley Jansen warmed in the bullpen as Treinen, seemingly not hampered by whatever bothered him Monday, took the mound for the ninth. O’Neill then singled, stole second base and scored when Sosa delivered after failing to drop a sacrifice bunt. The difference held up, if just barely.
“It was remarkable,” Roberts said of the Cardinals’ defense. “I thought the line score just really doesn’t tell the story as far as how our offense, the at-bats we took.”
Cody Bellinger comes off bench
The original plan for Cody Bellinger when he came off the injured list Saturday, according to Roberts, was for him to start the Dodgers’ next five games. That plan was scratched Tuesday. Bellinger wasn’t in the Dodgers’ lineup after going 0 for 10 with three walks in three games since his return from a fractured left fibula.
Bellinger, however, entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He struck out on three pitches against Gallegos and lined a two-out single in the ninth inning for his first hit since April 5, the same day he fractured his left fibula.
“That’s something I know he’s going to build on,” Roberts said. “And if he can repeat that and put himself in that spot mechanically, a lot of good things are going to happen.”
Highlights from the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
The fracture kept the center fielder out for nearly two months, continuing a disjointed start to the 2021 season that began with Bellinger being held out of spring training until mid-March after he underwent shoulder surgery in November. The 2019 NL MVP is five for 31 (.161 batting average) with a .536 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season.
“We look back at what he did to prepare for the season, it was an abbreviated spring training and then I think it was four games into the season, he gets hurt,” Roberts said. “So, as far as game at-bats, he hasn’t had it. So I just think continuing to get the work in and we all know that he impacts us if he’s in the game, in the lineup.”
Roberts said Bellinger will return to the lineup Wednesday and start all three road games against the Atlanta Braves this weekend.
Jimmy Nelson nearing return
Jimmy Nelson, on the injured list with right forearm and elbow soreness, faced Yoshi Tsutsugo in a live batting practice session Tuesday. If he rebounds Wednesday without an issue, he could come off the injured list as soon as Friday.
The 31-year-old right-hander was put on the injured list May 24, retroactive to May 21.
“It was something that was just kind of increasing as I was throwing more and more, so we just kind of shut it down from there,” Nelson said of his injury. “Addressed the issue, and I feel like between the treatment and just the approach back into things as far as throwing and mound work and then live BP today, it’s all gone very well.”
Roberts said AJ Pollock (hamstring) is also expected to join the Dodgers on their upcoming road trip. The outfielder went one for three with a home run in six innings on a rehabilitation assignment with single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday.
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