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Dodgers lose to Giants again to fall three games back in division

San Francisco Giants second baseman Donovan Solano completes a double play after forcing out Dodgers' AJ Pollock.
Giants second baseman Donovan Solano completes a double play after forcing out the Dodgers’ AJ Pollock on a ball hit by Albert Pujols in the second inning.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

The Dodgers were one game back in the National League West on July 19 when they began a 10-game stretch in which they’d play first-place San Francisco seven times, the opportunity to seize control of a division they’ve owned for eight years there for the taking.

The pesky Giants just wouldn’t let go. Veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto, the man of a thousand windups, and four relievers blanked the Dodgers on four hits in a 5-0 victory in Oracle Park on Thursday, the Giants winning five of seven from the Dodgers to push their division lead to three games.

“We know the NL West is a tough division, and it’s gonna be a dogfight all the way to the end, but we trust the guys in our clubhouse and in the lineup, and we believe in each other,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “It will be a tight race, but I think we’re made for that.”

The Dodgers made a trade with the Kansas City Royals for left-hander Danny Duffy on Thursday. The Dodgers will give up a player to be named later.

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They still have time to catch the Giants, too, but they need to play better than they did for most of this seven-game stretch, when they blew a pair of ninth-inning leads in Dodger Stadium last week and committed a throwing error that led to the Giants’ winning run in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss.

“We have so much respect for those guys — that’s a very good ballclub,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the Giants. “They’ve earned this to this point, and they’ve played better these last seven games, clearly.”

Cueto used his variety of hesitations, shimmy shakes and quick pitches to blank the Dodgers on three hits through five innings, and San Francisco scored four runs in four-plus innings off Dodgers starter David Price for a 4-0 lead.

The Dodgers had a chance to tie the score with one swing in the sixth when they loaded the bases with two outs, Chris Taylor reaching on a fielder’s-choice grounder, Max Muncy poking a single to left and Justin Turner walking to win a 10-pitch battle with Cueto.

Up stepped Cody Bellinger, who homered in Wednesday night’s win and was showing signs of emerging from a brutal seasonlong slump. In from the Giants bullpen came left-hander Jarlin Garcia.

Three pitches later, the inning was over, Bellinger taking a 94-mph fastball for strike one, an 84-mph changeup for strike two and swinging through a 94-mph fastball for strike three.

“That was a pivotal spot,” Roberts said after the Dodgers were shut out for the third time this season. “It could have changed the game, but they made the pitches when they needed to.”

Price did not. The Giants scored all of their runs with two outs, on Brandon Crawford’s two-run double in the first, Wilmer Flores’ RBI double in the second, Austin Slater’s RBI single in the fourth and LaMonte Wade Jr.’s double off Victor Gonzalez in the seventh.

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Price walked three in the first before Crawford, who was activated off the injured list before the game, slapped an opposite-field grounder past the third-base bag.

“Walking three guys in that first inning puts myself in a tough spot and our team in a tough spot,” said Price, who gave up three earned runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. “I wasn’t able to get that big put-out pitch with two outs and runners in scoring position.”

Not only was Price’s command off, the velocity of his fastball was down, from his average of 93.4 mph on the season to 91.2 mph Thursday.

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“I didn’t have a very good feel for anything,” Price said. “When I was playing catch in the outfield before the game, even warming up, I thought I was gonna throw really hard today, and that wasn’t the case. It was weird when I got onto the game mound. Physically, I felt fine. I just didn’t have very good stuff today.”


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